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The Apocalypse and the Day of Atonement: Part 1

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Archives / 1961 / March



The Apocalypse and the Day of Atonement: Part 1

Desmond Ford

Bible Department, Australasian Missionary College



IN RECENT years the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on the antitypical day of atonement has come under heavy fire from evangelical scholars. Adventists have taught for more than a century that while the sacri­ficial offerings such as the lambs, the bul­lock, the goat, et cetera, offered on Israel's great Day of Atonement foreshadowed our Lord's death on Calvary, the services in general that day particularly typified the final phase of Christ's priestly work. Other denominations, however, have usually ap­plied the type as prefiguring the whole of Christ's work from the cross to His second coming. This latter position is taken pri­marily on the basis of Hebrews 6:19, 20; 9:8, 12; 10:19, 20.

It is interesting to notice that there is also a third group who, while holding the second position described above, also be­lieve that the Day of Atonement has a spe­cial application to events immediately pre­ceding the return of Christ. Such a concept takes into account the chronological ar­rangement of the Jewish typical year and the fact that the book of Revelation in many places alludes to the Day of Atone­ment by using imagery peculiar to that sol­emn fast day. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the reasons for a special latter day application of the Day of Atone­ment are sound. To this end significant statements from Scripture and from non-Adventist scholars will be quoted.

More than two centuries ago, when com­menting on the Apocalypse, Sir Isaac New­ton wrote as follows:

The Temple is the scene of the visions, and the visions in the Temple relate to the feast of the seventh month, for the feasts of the JEWS were typical of things to come. The Passover related to the first coming of CHRIST, and the feasts of the seventh month to his second coming: his first coming being therefore over before this Prophecy was given, the feasts of the seventh month are here only alluded unto.1

The New Testament endorses this idea that the Jewish festival year prefigured the entire Christian age. The typical genius of the Old Testament economy, as every­where recognized in the New Testament, provides the foundation for this conclusion. Furthermore, the inspired apostles specifi­cally apply the Jewish festivals in this way.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul alludes to the Passover as the type of the crucifixion of Christ. The Gospel writers in recording the events are also careful to point out that the climax to Christ's minis­try occurred in connection with the Pass­over. But in Revelation 7:9 the redeemed are pictured as standing before the throne "clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands." This was prefigured in the Feast of Tabernacles, for in Leviticus 23:40 we read: "And ye shall take you on the first day of the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." In harmony with this is Christ's fre­quent allusion to the harvest in connec­tion with the end of the world. The Feast of Tabernacles was also called the Feast of Harvest, occurring as it did after the completion of the gathering in of the year's produce. The references in the New Testa­ment to Christ as the first fruits and the time record of the occurrence of Pentecost help to fill out this picture of the typical significance of the Jewish ceremonial year.

A simple graph illustrates the point made by Sir Isaac Newton and other scholars on this matter.

Spring Festivals                    Typifying Significant Events of First Advent

Passover                            Crucifixion

First Fruits                             Resurrection

Pentecost                                Pentecost

Trumpets                                 Rev. 8 and 9

Day of Atonement                     Rev. 8:1-6; 11:19

Feast of Tabernacles                 Rev. 7:9; 14:14-19

The spring festivals have always come in for much attention and have been applied to the first advent with universal consent. Unfortunately the festivals of autumn have not been given the same study emphasis. In a standard work on Leviticus in The Expositor's Bible we have the following illuminating statement by Dr. S. H. Kellogg as he turned his attention to the feasts of the seventh month:

We have already seen that the earlier feasts of the year were also prophetic; that Passover and Unleavened Bread pointed forward to Christ, our Passover, slain for us; Pentecost, to the spiritual ingathering of the firstfruits of the world's harvest, fifty days after the presentation of our Lord in resurrection, as the wave-sheaf of the firstfruits. We may therefore safely infer that these remaining feasts of the seventh month must be typical also. But, if so, typical of what? Two things may be safely said in this matter. The significance of the three festivals of this seventh month must be in­terpreted in harmony with what has already passed into fulfilment; and, in the second place, inasmuch as the feast of trumpets, the day of atone­ment, and the feast of tabernacles all belong to the seventh and last month of the ecclesiastical year, they must find their fulfilment in connection with what Scripture calls "the last times."

Keeping the first point in view, we may then safely say that if Pentecost typified the firstfruits of the world's harvest in the ingathering of an election from all nations, the feast of tabernacles must then typify the completion of that harvest in a spiritual ingathering, final and universal. Not only so, but, inasmuch as in the antitypical fulfil­ment of the wave-sheaf in the resurrection of our Lord, we were reminded that the consummation of the new creation is in resurrection from the dead, and that in regeneration is therefore involved res­urrection, hence the feast of tabernacles, as cele­brating the absolute completion of the year's har­vest, must typify also the resurrection season, when all that are Christ's shall rise from the dead at His coming. And, finally, whereas this means for the now burdened earth permanent deliverance from the curse, and the beginning of a new age thus signalised by glorious life in resurrection, in which are enjoyed the blessed fruits of life's labours and pains for Christ, this was shadowed forth by the ordinance that immediately upon the seven days of tabernacles should follow a feast of the eighth day, the first day of a new week, in celebration of the beginning season of rest from all the labours of the field.

Most beautifully, thus regarded, does all else connected with the feast of tabernacles correspond, as type to antitype, to the revelation of the last things, and therein reveal its truest and deepest spiritual significance: the joy, the reunion, the re­joicing with son and with daughter, the fulness of gladness also for the widow and the fatherless; and this, not only for those in Israel, but also for the stranger, not of Israel,—for Gentile as well as Israelite was to have part in the festivity of that day; and, again, the full attainment of the most complete consecration, signified in the tenfold burnt-offering;—all finds its place here. And so now we can see why it was that our Saviour de­clared (Matt. xiii. 39) that the end of this present age should be the time of harvest; and how Paul, looking at the future spiritual ingathering, places the ingathering of the Gentiles (Rom. xi. 25) as one of the last things. In full accord with this in­terpretation of the typical significance of this feast it is that in Zech. xiv. we find it written that in the predicted day of the Lord, when (ver. 5) the Lord "shall come, and all the holy ones" with Him, and (ver. 9) "the Lord shall be King over all the earth; . . . the Lord . . . one, and His name one." then (ver. 16) "everyone that is left of all the nations . . . shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles"; and, moreover, that so completely shall consecration be realised in that day that (ver. 20) even upon the bells of the horses shall the words be inscribed, "HOLY UNTO THE LORD!"2

This long quotation has been given in full because Dr. Kellogg adequately pre­sents the reasoning of those who apply the feasts of autumn to antitypical events as­sociated with the second advent of Christ. It might well be asked at this stage—how then do such writers interpret the latter-day significance of the day of atonement? And the same writer asks:

Now, if the feast of tabernacles has been correctly interpreted, as presignifying in symbol the com­pletion of the great world harvest in the end of the age, does the prophetic word reveal anything in connection with the last things as preceding that great harvest, and, in some sense, preparing for and ushering in that day, which should be the antitype of the great day of atonement?3

He then proceeds to suggest that the antitype would be the repentance of literal Israel and her cleansing from sin. This view of the reclaiming of Israel as the event sig­nified in this connection is not peculiar to Dr. Kellogg but has been echoed by several. These same scholars generally apply the Feast of Trumpets to the warning message of the approaching advent of Christ, and Matthew 24:14 is often quoted in this re­gard.

The above constitutes evidence that it is not a peculiarly Adventist view that rep­resents the day of atonement as having special application just prior to the second coming of Christ. As we inquire further let us note particularly the Apocalypse. There are a number of references in Reve­lation that employ day of atonement imag­ery, and non-Adventist scholars have drawn attention to these.

(To be continued)

1 Sir William Whitla, Sir Isaac Newton's Daniel and the Apocalypse, pp. 308, 309.

2 S. H. Kellogg, The Expositor's Bible—The Book of Levit­icus, pp. 468-470.

3 Ibid., p. 470.

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