Okay, today we’re going to take a look at the meaning of the Day of Atonement with special emphasis on a sub-theme and that would be the devil. You might have guessed that from the title, Fiery Darts.
The main theme of this day is Jesus Christ. That’s interesting, because we had a scripture read, telling us that this was an Old Testament harvest festival. Let’s just kind of think about what happens. We know that the fall holy days relate to the great fall harvest in Israel. Trumpets related to the seventh trumpet. You know, in Israel they blew a trumpet each new moon, which commemorated the beginning of each month. And the Feast of Trumpets, which just happened a few days ago, falls on the first day of the seventh month, which would be then the seventh trumpet. So the biblical symbol – the seventh trumpet – is the return of Jesus Christ. We can read that in Revelation.
So then the next holy day is the Day of Atonement, which is what we’re observing today. And in the plan of God, the next thing that happens at Christ’s return is the drawing back into relationship of all the inhabitants of the earth and the resurrection of the saints, when we’ll all be at one with God once again. The term Atonement can be divided up to mean at one ment. That is the meaning of the day – to become, finally, at one with God.
Now Paul did an amazing thing. When he wanted to explain to the church about the significance of Jesus Christ, what did he do? Well, he couldn’t talk about Christmas, because they hadn’t invented that yet. And he couldn’t talk about Easter, because that wasn’t on the calendar either. The New Testament church observed neither of those days. So what did he do? Well, let’s go to Hebrews 9, and verse 1, and see how Paul explained Jesus Christ to the church in those days. He said now, in verse 1 of Hebrews 9:
Heb. 9:1 – Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. We know about the temple and the tabernacle, don’t we? A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table, the consecrated bread. This was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the golden covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the golden jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant, and the ark with the cherubim of the glory overshadowing the atonement cover. All of us remember The Raiders of the Lost Ark, don’t we? That’s what he’s describing right here.
V-6 – When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into that outer room to carry on their ministry, but only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year. So in that place, called the Holy of Holies – where the ark was – the high priest went only once a year. And it says, …never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins of the people – or for the sins that people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper. So let’s stop and just let that sink in a little bit. This Feast of Atonement that they observed and the tabernacle and all that was in it was an illustration for the present time. It has meaning for Christians – that the gifts and sacrifices that they offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations applied until the time of the new order. When Christ came as High Priest of the good things that are already here, He went through a greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man made – that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by the means of blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
So the Day of Atonement was an acting out of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and Christ going to God the Father to be consecrated.
V-13 – The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so they are outwardly clean. How much more then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so we may serve the living God?
Then in verse 15, it says:
V-15 – For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
So this is the meaning of the Day of Atonement for Christians. Now let’s just think about this for just a second. Paul tells us that all the whole while they were observing the Day of Atonement in times past, they were really just picturing what is to come. And the Day of Atonement pictures what is to come. So why would we throw that off and not observe that any longer? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
God is harvesting – not grain, but us. We’re the harvest. It’s about how God – through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ – is drawing us all back into relationship with Him – how we become at one with God. Simply astounding! It’s astounding. It’s right there in the New Testament. And almost as astounding is the question, “After such a clearly drawn explanation, why don’t Christians observe the day?” Especially when we see the early church observing the day. Did you know that – in the New Testament – that there is evidence they did?
Acts 27:9 – Much time has been lost and sailing has already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. In the NIV that word fast is capitalized and there is a little a right beside it. And on a computer, you click that a – or if you look in your Bible margin at the bottom – you’ll see what the a means. It means the Day of Atonement. So they were observing the Day of Atonement.
So we can’t take time to explain how that happened. That’s for another day. We have to be out of here by sundown so we can go eat.
So we’ll read in Revelation 7 of the seventh trumpet – or we did read that. We read that Christ returns. We can read of it in Revelation 19 and 20. I’m not going to take the time to read 19 and 20 today either. But He resurrects dead saints and He draws all living saints to Him in the air. He then fights the battle of Armegeddon and subdues the earth and begins the process of establishing a relationship with everyone. It’s the Kingdom of God on earth. It’s not the first time, but it’s a reestablishment. You know, a lot of people don’t know that, but you know the Kingdom of God was here before. Let’s go to Genesis 1 and read about it.
Gen. 1:26 – Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created him. Male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
So this was the original Kingdom of God. God was the King. They were the subjects. There was a territory that they ruled over. And there are the two of them living at one with God. That’s the story. But something happened. We know what it was, don’t we? And that’s where the sub-theme of the Day of Atonement comes in – the devil – the one who caused humankind to draw away from God. Let’s read about that.
Gen. 3:3 – Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not touch it or you will die.” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. And she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. A lot of people like to blame the woman for all this, but he was standing right there! He listened to the whole thing. He had plenty of opportunity to back out of the deal. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. And they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” So God is still trying to reach out and keep close to Adam and Eve – to keep them close to Him – but they’re busy drawing away, because they did something wrong and they know it. They disobeyed. They went against what God told them. The rest of the Bible is the sad story of how humankind has wandered away, knowing something is missing, knowing something is wrong, looking for a way back to God, and trying everything under the sun to do that, but without any success – without finding their way back.
So let’s now go to Leviticus 16 and read some more about how they observed the Day of Atonement. Beside the high priest going into the Holy of Holies, something else happened. Now remember, Paul said this day pictured what was going to happen in the future. Right? He did.
Lev. 16:1 – The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, who died when they approached the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “Tell your brother, Aaron, not to come whenever he chooses into the most holy place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover of the ark, or else he will die, because I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. This is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary – with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. And he is to put on the sacred linen tunic with linen undergarments next to his body. He is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turbin. These are sacred garments, so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. From the Israelite community is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sins, offering to make an atonement for himself and his household. And then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats – one lot for the LORD and the other for the” – and we translate this word into English – “scapegoat.” Actually the word in Hebrew is Azazel and it means goat of separation. And that’s what he is doing. He’s casting lots on them. The one is going to stand for God and one is going to stand for something else. “Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice for it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by the lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a goat of separation.” It says that the sins of the people were confessed on this goat.
So let’s go to Revelation now and kind of tie this up. In Revelation 20 – right after Christ’s return…. I love the NIV, because it tells you what you’re going to read before you read it. There’s a caption about Revelation 20 that says, “The Thousand Years.” So this is after Christ’s return, which is pictured in Revelation 19. Then Revelation 20 says:
Rev. 20:1 – And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven having the key to the abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. And he seized the dragon – the ancient serpent, who is the devil or Satan…. Do you think He wants us to know who he is talking about here? I mean, there are four descriptors there so you just can’t miss it. …and bound him for a thousand years. And he threw him into the abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, and kept him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended.
He has been trying to keep people out of relationship with God all this time – just like he took them out in the beginning. And he deceives people about that. So the first act of the thousand year reign of Christ is to get rid of the cause of separation, which is Satan the devil.
Now I realize that there has been a discussion for years about the significance of the second goat. Some people think it also means Christ. Well, I think you know where I stand on that one, but there is also the discussion about whether the whole story of Adam and Eve is history or a metaphor. We can argue about these things until the cows come home, but if we do, we’re going to miss the point. The point is that God wants us to get into relationship with Him. We’re separated from Him now and it’s because of what Satan the devil did – and also the choices that we have made.
So right now God has set in motion a great plan to bring us all back. That plan, Paul said, was Jesus Christ and Him crucified. That’s the cornerstone of the plan of God. All the holy days are about that. That is the significance of the Day of Atonement for Christians. Jesus Christ is going to cast out the devil and restore the earth to a relationship with God as it once was in the beginning. I think it’s Acts 3:21, isn’t it, that says that restitution of all things must come? That’s what it’s talking about. It’s talking about how we had it, we lost it, but God’s going to give it back to us in the end.
Now, at LifeResource Ministries we’re not happy to just talk about what things mean. We want to know more. We want to talk about what does this mean to us? And what are we supposed to do about it. We have been in a church that has sat on our backsides waiting for Christ to return, and we love to hear good Bible preaching, but we don’t like to do very much. We like to be sedentery and we don’t like to take action. So we’re going to go a little further than we normally do on a traditional holy day presentation. We’re going to talk about how the devil does his work. How did he do what we see today? How did he separate everybody from God?
Well, I had an interesting thing happen to me some time ago. I was having a discussion with someone, and I suddenly realized I was being criticized very subtly. I was told that Satan is everywhere putting little tempting thoughts into people’s minds – and also really evil ones in our minds – and that we need to be aware of all the demons around us all the time, and only people who don’t have spiritual discernment can discern the devil’s work. And guess who that would be? Who would have that discernment? Yeah, the one telling me that. And, of course, the point was that I didn’t. Right? I was sitting there listening to this thinking, “Well, that’s just another variation on that theme – I’m better than you are. I know something you don’t know.” We hear that all the time in church, don’t we? It’s just what people do.
Let’s go to that scripture that talks about the fiery darts – it’s in Ephesians 6 – and let’s take a close look at that. There are some good clues here for us. Paul talking to the church, he said:
Eph. 6:10 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows – or fiery darts, in the King James – of the evil one. He shoots flaming arrows at us – fiery darts. But what are those? What is a fiery dart?
When one of my clients awhile back told me that she had a demon that had inhabited her bedroom, I asked her how she knew. She said, “Well, I heard it in the closet and my cat freaks out. My cat knows something is there.” I said, “Can anybody but you and your cat hear it?” And she said, “Oh, my brother has heard it, too. He won’t go in there.” I’m a psychotherapist. So what do they do? I said, “You obviously are having hallucinations. You need to go get some psychotopic medication….” No, I didn’t say that, because her brother saw it, too. So are they both having hallucinations? No, it’s quite likely, when a bunch of people see the same thing, they’re seeing or hearing what’s really there. So I told her how to pray about it and it went away.
So why did I tell you that? Well, I want you to know that I know that demons exist, but I’m just not paranoid about them. I don’t think that you always have to be looking out through the blinds to see if there is one out there at your house. You don’t have to be checking the closets. It’s not that way. So, if I know that they exist, why don’t I worry about it? Well, for the same reason that I don’t play with ouija boards. If you go looking for them, if you think a lot about them, they like that and they come. Perhaps it requires spiritual discernment to realize that the devil’s spiritual archery isn’t about demented demons scaring little kids in the dark, but in something much more important than that.
Just go back and think about this account that we read. What’s Paul talking about? Well, he’s talking about the Christians getting ready to face persecution from the government of the church. He said the devil is the one who does that. Something like that is much more likely to be the devil’s real work. And notice, also, that a Christian’s response, he tells us here, is not to be running scared of the devil and seeing him around every corner, but be filled with trust in God. God’s going to take care of you. You don’t have to worry about that stuff, because He’s stronger. He’s stronger.
What was it he said extinguished the flaming arrows? Oh, it was the shield of faith, wasn’t it? The shield of faith extinguishes those fiery darts – not paranoia, not preoccupation, not obsession, but just trusting God. We can’t protect ourselves from the devil. God does that for us. He protects us.
Okay, let’s tie this together a little bit more. We saw that Satan’s work is to alienate human beings from God. Right? He started right from the beginning, driving a wedge between the man and the woman and then between the couple and God, didn’t he? That was the first thing he did. We know that later he attacked Christ and tempted Him while He was here on earth. We know that he put it in the mind of Judas to betray Jesus. He was trying to stop Christ from dying for our sins. He didn’t want Christ to draw us all back into relationship with Him. And we know that when Christ returns, Satan is going to resist His return, don’t we? We know that he’s the one that inspires an army to fight against Christ when He comes back. You can read about that in the lead up to the battle of Armegeddon. So it’s all about trying to prevent God from drawing us back into relationship after he [the devil] alienated us to begin with.
But what I want to ask you about is how does Satan cause that alienation? How has he kept everybody from understanding what he’s doing? How does he do that? Well, we know that he works in power structures of nations and influences people. But how does he influence them? Probably the modern-day, obvious example of that is Adolf Hitler. You know, we watch these films where Hitler went into rages while speaking to the German populace. I even saw a documentary recently on the History Channel that suggested that he was driven by demonic forces. I almost fell out of my chair. I was kind of nodding off. It wasn’t the most interesting show. But then when they said that, that perked me right up. I thought, “Man! On the History Channel!”
Okay, so how did the devil do that? How did he get control of the German populace and inspire them to try to destroy the gypsies and the Jews and a lot of other people, as well? Well, I think that he had to lay some groundwork for that. Did you know that, as a child, Hitler had many Jewish friends? He did. He knew lots of Jewish kids and he was friends with them. We know that his mother died when he was young. Almost all the doctors that took care of her were Jewish and he spoke very highly of them later when he was an adult. So he didn’t start out bad, right? But you know, his father used to beat him savagely. He hated Jews. And little Adolf, because of the beatings he took, was filled with rage – because of the beatings he received. And as he grew older, his rage became focused on all of the minorities that people looked down on in Europe in those days – and that would be Jews and gypsies, primarily. So, Hitler, by the time he was an adult – because of the way that he was brought up – was a sitting duck for fiery darts. And that’s how I think he does it.
How did the devil get Cain to kill Abel? It’s all right there in the story. It starts early. It starts when we’re little. Satan turned the first family away from God and filled them with distrust and hate. And we’ve kind of kept it going ever since, with some reinforcement from him along the way, I think.
I had a man in my office once and he was recounting to me the story of his father’s death when he was two-and-a-half years old. His father had killed himself accidentally with a shot gun. It just went off. So there was this sudden, violent, unexpected separation. And at two-and-a-half, he didn’t even understand about a body that didn’t work anymore – about separation or death. He just knew his father wasn’t there to take care of him any longer. At the funeral he tried to crawl into the casket to be close to his daddy. You can imagine what the adults did. They probably felt like an arrow ran through their heart and they also felt like this is something we can’t allow to happen. So the adults pulled him back – he was recounting this to me with tears streaming down his face – and told him he couldn’t do that. And in his two-and-a-half year old way, he asked, “Why not?” And one of them said, “You just can’t,” and pulled him back. He was sitting there weeping in my office and then he said, “That’s why I’ve never told my kids they can’t do anything and I hate that.” I just started to think about the reasons that he had come for help. He was thirty years old and he had never held a job for more than six months. He couldn’t hold a job because he couldn’t cooperate with his employers. He always had to have it his way. When his wife would try to get him to help with their kids, he would resist her. She was getting ready to give up on him. He joined the army because he thought that might be a way to prove himself, but that was short-lived. He couldn’t find a way to fit into his family, his work. He always had to be going against the grain. He had a huge resistance to the word no. I wonder where that came from? Because of that, many people saw him as self-centered. To others, it seemed like he always had to have things his way. And he was like that. But I think the reason that he became like that was because of that early experience. And, as an adult, he was depressed, anxious, alcoholic. He had a felony arrest record. He failed at everything. He attempted suicide several times. And as I was watching him – just looking at him – it just seemed so obvious where all that started. It started with a thoughtless remark at a stressful time by a well-meaning adult – somebody that wasn’t attuned to what this child really needed and what was really going on. So he’s pretty much of a bully in his family, and he doesn’t have many friends, and he can be pretty mean.
And I was thinking about Adolf Hitler and I wondered if somebody had done EMDR with Adolf Hitler as a teenager, and relieved him of that rage, if the whole course of world history might have been changed. And I think probably not, but I think the Chancellor of Germany in those days might have had a different name. I think the devil is going to do what he does, but he goes and looks for the people that are sitting ducks for the fiery darts.
So the devil starts with the family to alienate us from God. That wouldn’t surprise us, because we know the family is the model of life with God. He’s our Father. And Satan wants to disrupt our family experience. He wants to hurt us in the family as early as he can, so that, as adults, we have a hard time putting on the shield of faith. He wants to make it hard for us to trust God.
I keep coming back over and over again to Jean Piaget’s observation that “trust developed in a child by attuned and caring parents early in life turns into faith when they become adults.” That’s because the task of childhood in the first year or two of life is to learn to trust. And when we become adults, if we have that foundation, then it’s also easy for us to believe in and trust God – to have faith in Him. So Satan hits us where it counts the most – where it’s the most important sometimes. And I think he does that by causing our parents to be stressed, to have grown up not loved themselves, to be attuned to other things like all the problems going on around us, to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, to be stressed over financial problems, to be stressed over relationship problems so that we can’t give our children the things that they need. So children who are not loved and cared for don’t trust and so that work of alienation begins right there.
A man asked me recently why God allows such pain and suffering in the world. When you think about the pain and suffering that goes on, we would probably die if we tried to take it all in. It’s so difficult. It is such a tough one. Why does God allow such pain and suffering? We don’t believe He causes it, but He allows things to happen that we wouldn’t allow to happen. Why does He do that?
Well, I told this man that the amount of suffering in the world is a testament to God’s commitment to our free will. And the more suffering that you know about, the more we see the commitment of God. He is completely hands off for a purpose. The kind of God that we worship is the kind of God that subjected His own Son to crucifixion. He sees beyond physical suffering to the outcome. It’s only by our choices that we learn that our way doesn’t work – that we are powerless before the devil – that we need God! That’s the only way that we can learn that lesson. And most of us haven’t. That’s why things are so messed up. There is no way out other than God. Only by free will can we come to trust God and believe that He is going to take care of us. Our way breeds suffering. God’s way breeds life. That is why, even though this is a sober day – evidenced by fasting – it’s also the happiest day of the year, because it pictures that great day in the future when the cause of alienation and suffering is going to bound with a chain. And all God’s children, at that time, are going to be drawn back from their alienation into the family of God.