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The Apocalypse and the Day of Atonement: Concluded

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Archives / 1961 / April

 

 

The Apocalypse and the Day of Atonement: Concluded

Desmond Ford

Bible Department, Australasian Missionary College

 

 

FREDERICK NOLAN, noted linguist and theologian of the nineteenth century, asserted in The Time of the Millennium that on many occasions the attention of antiquaries and scholars had been drawn to the references to the Day of Atonement in Revelation. After declaring his belief that the imagery of the seventh seal was derived from the great Day of Atonement and the Jubilee, he stated, "The analogy between this de­scription, and the service of the Temple, upon one of the most solemn festivals of the Mosaic ceremonial, is so obvious that it has often excited the attention of the anti­quary and scholar." He further asserts that the frequent allusions in Revelation 9 and 15 to "the ark of the tabernacle, the altar, and the incense," refer "not only to the daily service but to the 'peculiar solemnity' of the services on the 'great day of Atone­ment,' performed 'by the high priest, in the holiest place of the Temple,' and celebrated in the seventh month." L. E. Froom notes Nolan's view that the Jubilee "commenced on the great Day of Atonement and was ushered in with the sound of Trumpets." Thus to him the "opening of the seventh seal" with its allusions to the feasts of Trum­pets and Atonement points to "the opening of the millennium, and the Jubilee." 1

Joshua Spalding, a contemporary of No­lan, was also a writer on the prophecies of the book of Revelation. Like Nolan, he held that the feasts of the seventh month were symbolic of the final restitution of all things. Froom gives in some detail the views of this writer in his third volume of Pro­phetic Faith of Our Fathers.

Another writer referred to by Froom is John Tudor, one-time editor of the Church of England Quarterly Review. Comment­ing on the pouring out of the last vial, Tu­dor wrote:

The temple of God is then opened, and the ark of his testament seen, xi.19; and the voice issues from the throne, xvi.I7; both expressions equally denoting the holy of holies, which was only en­tered once a year, on the day of atonement. This period is therefore our day of atonement, and re­quires our particular notice, to know what events we may expect, answering to the type.2

Elsewhere in speaking of Revelation 8: 1-5 and 11:19 Tudor affirms that "'all the imagery in this poem was taken from the Day of Atonement'—the golden censer, the incense, the deep affliction, the temple opened, and the ark seen 'indicating the opening of the veil on the day of atone­ment.' "3

Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps more than any other scholar, has stressed the point that the visions of the book of Revelation abound with the imagery of the feasts of the seventh month.

Commenting on Revelation chapter 5, Newton declares:

It was the custom for the High-Priest, seven days before the fast of the seventh month, to con­tinue constantly in the Temple, and study the book of the Law, that he might be perfect in it against the day of expiation; wherein the service, which was various and intricate, was wholly to be performed by himself; part of which service was reading the Law to the people: and to promote his studying it, there were certain Priests ap­pointed by the SANHEDRIM to be with him those seven days in one of his chambers in the Temple, and there to discourse with him about the Law, and read it to him and put him in mind of reading and studying it himself. Thishis opening and reading the Law those seven days, is alluded unto in the Lamb's opening the seals.4

And on chapter 8:1-5 Newton further says:

The seventh seal was therefore opened on the day of expiation, and then there was silence in heaven for half an hour. And an angel, the High-Priest, stood at the altar having a golden censer; and there was given him incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints, upon the golden altar which was before the throne. The custom was on other days, for one of the Priests to take fire from the great Altar in a silver Censer; but on this day, for the High-Priest to take fire from the great Altar in a golden Censer; and when he was come down from the great Altar, he took incense from one of the Priests who brought it to him, and went with it to the golden Altar: and while he offered the incense, the people prayed without in silence, which is the silence in heaven for half an hour. When the High-Priest had laid the incense on the Altar, he carried a Censer of it burning in his hand, into the most holy place be­fore the Ark. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. On other days there was a certain measure of incense for the golden Altar: on this day there was a greater quantity for both the Altar and the most holy Place, and therefore it is called much incense. . . .

The solemnity of the day of expiation being fin­ished, the seven Angels sound their trumpets at the great sacrifices of the seven days of the feast of Tabernacles; and at the same sacrifices, the seven thunders utter their voices which are the musick of the Temple, and singing of the Levites, inter­mixed with the soundings of the trumpets: and the seven Angels pour out their vials of wrath, which are the drink-offerings of those sacrifices.5

We may not agree with all the details of interpretation offered by Newton nor all the references that he declares to point to the Day of Atonement ceremonial. How­ever, certain features of analogy between the visions of Revelation and the solemn fast day of Yom Kippur are undeniable. All authorities are agreed, for example, that a golden censer, such as referred to in Revelation 8:3, was used only by the Jew­ish high priest on the Day of Atonement. Revelation 11:19 is a clearer reference still to another feature of the Day of Atonement, namely the entrance into the Most Holy Place and the viewing of the Ark for the only time in the year. The fact that many non-Adventist scholars have made such quotations as the preceding is conclusive that the Bible's latest book with its proph­ecies, which relate specially to the last times, harnesses the imagery of this special day to express vital truths. It is also significant that this imagery is associated with ref­erences to the other feasts of the seventh month, Trumpets and Tabernacles giving a combined witness to the latter-day appli­cation of these typical occasions.

For Seventh-day Adventists, Newton's re­marks on the sealing work are especially interesting. He quotes Revelation 7:1-3 and says:

This sealing alludes to a tradition of the Jews, that upon the day of expiation all the people of Israel are sealed up in the books of life and death (Buxtore, in Synagoga Judaica, c. 18, 21). For the Jews in their Talmud tell us, that in the beginning of every new year, or first day of the month, Tisri, the seventh month of the sacred year, three books are opened in judgment; the book of life, in which the names of those are written who are perfectly just; the book of death, in which the names of those are written who are Atheists or very wicked; and a third book, of those whose judgment is suspended till the day of expiation, and whose names are not written in the book of life or death before that day. The first ten days of this month they call the penitential days; and all these days they fast and pray very much, and arc very de­vout, that on the tenth day their sins may be re­mitted, and their names may be written in the book of life; which day is therefore called the day of expiation. And upon this tenth day, in returning home from the Synagogues, they say to one another, God the Creator seal you to a good year. For they conceive that the books are now sealed up, and that the sentence of God remains unchanged hence­forward to the end of the year. The same thing is signified by the two Goats, upon whose fore­heads the High-Priest yearly, on the day of expia­tion, lays the two lots inscribed, For God and For Azazel; God's lot signifying the people who are sealed with the name of God in their foreheads; and the lot Azazel, which was sent into the wilder­ness, representing those who receive the mark and name of the Beast, and go into the wilderness with the great Whore.6

By this statement Sir Isaac Newton de­clares his belief that the crisis of Revela­tion 13 over the mark of the beast and also the sealing work described earlier both apply to the antitypical Day of Atonement. He places these events in the setting of judgment, as typified by Israel's ancient fast day.

It is not only interesting but significant that non-Adventist scholars of repute be­lieved the feasts of the seventh month to be typical of events associated with the second advent of Christ. These men did not believe that the significance of the Day of Atonement was exhausted by the use made of it by Paul in Hebrews 9. They be lieved that the Day of Atonement has a special significance for those living in the last days of earth's history. Commentaries on the book of Revelation that have dis­cerned the allusions of the visions to Old Testament ceremonial expressly affirm the foregoing view. In the realm of Adventist apologetics these facts are of tremendous importance at this time. We cannot but be reminded of such statements as the follow­ing, which were addressed to Seventh-day Adventists more than fifty years ago:

Let us give more time to the study of the Bible. We do not understand the word as we should. The book of Revelation opens with an injunction to us to understand the instruction that it contains. "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy," God declares, "and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." When we as a people under­stand what this book means to us, there will be seen among us a great revival. We do not under­stand fully the lessons that it teaches, notwithstand­ing the injunction given us to search and study it.7

Study Revelation in connection with Daniel, for history will be repeated. . . . We, with all our reli­gious advantages, ought to know far more today than we do know.8

Let no one come to the conclusion that there is no more truth to be revealed. The diligent, prayer­ful seeker for truth will find precious rays of light yet to shine forth from the word of God. Many gems are yet scattered that are to be gathered to­gether to become the property of the remnant peo­ple of God.9

1 L. E. Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 3, pp. 608-610.

2 Ibid., p. 507.

3 Ibid., p. 504.

4 Sir William Whitla, Sir Isaac Newton's Daniel and the Apocalypse, pp. 313, 314. John Murray, London, W-l.

5 Ibid., pp. 314, 315.

6 Ibid., pp.. 315, 316.

7 Testimonies to Ministers, p. 113.

8 Ibid., p. 116.

9 Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 35.

 

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