Seventh-day Adventists believe that since 1844 we have been living in the antitypical Day of Atonement. This is because we believe that everything that was symbolized in the yearly festivals of the Old Covenant Jewish economy has a spiritual fulfillment in the New Covenant Christian Church. That being the case, shouldn’t the instructions given to the people who took part in the ceremony also have a practical application to us today?
You see, if what we believe is happening in heaven right now is true, then we must look back to see what God instructed His people to do on the typical Day of Atonement so that we can see what we should be doing today. Notice what the Bible says,
“Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people” (Leviticus 23:27–30).
As we can see by the text, the first thing the Jews were instructed to do was to “anah” or afflict themselves. Literally “anah” in this context means to humble oneself in a self-denying way. As we read further the passage goes on to say that if anyone chose not to “anah” himself he would be “cut off” from Israel. Traditionally over the years the Jews began simply to refer to this day as “the Fast” (Acts 27:9) because they considered afflicting oneself and fasting as synonymous with each other.
The second thing the Jews were instructed to do was to rest. They were not to do any work. They were not to let day-day distractions, cares, and pleasures keep their minds from the important event that was taking place in the Most Holy Place. Their hearts and minds had to be completely focused surrendering their lives to God so that their sins would be included in the removal of the nation’s sins from the sanctuary. Again, if one chose not to take this seriously and chose to partake in common labor on that day he would also be “cut off” from Israel
Thus, we can see two practical activities the Jews were actually doing on the day itself. First, they were humbling themselves physically: meaning they were denying their fleshly cravings for food. Second, they were humbling themselves spiritually: meaning they were setting aside the cares of the world and surrendering their hearts completely to God recognizing their own sinfulness and total dependence upon God for the final atonement of their sins (Luke 18:13, 14).
Application for Today
So how does this apply to us today? If in fact the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement is taking place in heaven as we speak, then what should we be doing as we wait for our High Priest, Jesus Christ, to come forth from the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary?
We have already found the two principles in the text we just read:
- Humbling ourselves physically
- Humbling ourselves spiritually
Notice I said principles, not rules. Principles are applied differently depending on the setting and circumstances. Obviously, we cannot literally copy what the Jews did for one day and apply it to one’s full lifetime. God does not expect nor does we want us to fast and pray continually. If we did we would never get anything done in life. He doesn’t want to turn us all into monks as we wait for Him to come back to take us home to live with Him forever
But we mustn’t turn aside from the implications of failing to take these principles seriously in our lives today. What would happen if a Jew failed to apply one or both of these principles during the typical Day of Atonement? He would be “cut off” from Israel! In the same way, what could happen if a Christian fails to apply one or both of these principles in his life during the antitypical Day of Atonement? That is a question we must ponder and answer for ourselves I suppose.
Would it surprise you then to discover that the Adventist Lifestyle properly understood implements both of these principles in our life on a day-to-day basis? For instance, the reason that the Seventh-day Adventist Church hasn’t emphasized fasting as much as it is traditionally practiced in other faiths (where one goes without food for an extended period of time) is because we have instead emphasized a lifestyle of fasting from unhealthy foods. Notice this amazing quote from Counsels on Diet and Foods:
“The true fasting which should be recommended to all is abstinence from every stimulating kind of food, and the proper use of wholesome, simple food, which God has provided in abundance. Men need to think less about what they shall eat and drink of temporal food, and much more in regard to the food from heaven, that will give tone and vitality to the whole religious experience.”1
Thus, as we enjoy a lifestyle that inherently leads us to humble ourselves physically our focus is freed from temporal wants and cares so that we can concentrate on humbling ourselves spiritually. When we do that then we will have the power of Christ living in us consistently until we finish work of sharing the everlasting gospel with a world lost in sin.
Call to Action
It is for this practical reason that we should start considering the eight laws of health as more than a suggestion. God has specifically given us this lifestyle for our benefit — to keep us connected to Him and focused on the work he has given us to do of telling others to Get Ready for Jesus.
Let’s not get so focused on defending theology that we miss the practical application of it in our own lives!
All scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Ellen G. White, Counsels on Diet and Foods (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1938), 188.