A lack of familiarity with the Levitical system can lead to misunderstandings like thinking that somehow sins are not really forgiven until the next Yom Kippur, or that sins were not really forgiven through animal sacrifice. The thought is that God covered sin until Yeshua’s sacrifice really took them away. What helps us understand this is the realization that Scripture presents us with two tabernacles, an earthly and a heavenly one. The earthly one was made according to the pattern of the heavenly one. Yeshua ministered as High Priest in the heavenly tabernacle, never in the earthly one. But because God was present in the earthly one, He gave us animal sacrifices to deal with the barrier to fellowship that our sin and death created. The eternal barrier was dealt with by Yeshua in the heavenly tabernacle. The heavenly Yom Kippur was done once and it yields eternal results, the earthly Yom Kippur was done annually and it yields physical and temporary results.
The earthly Yom Kippur was a national and collective atonement in order to infuse the tabernacle with life. It primarily dealt with the unconfessed sins of Israelites that sinned defiantly, walking away from God and His covenant. They did not bring a sacrifice for their sin like pious Israelites did, so Yom Kippur was necessary. Elul and its preparation for repentance should be seen as preparation for spiritual breakthroughs in freedom from the dominion of sin over our lives.
Adonai Elohenu, I thank you for the ways you reveal your divine plan of atonement to us, both on earth and in the heavens. I turn to you during this ordained season of preparation in anticipation, not only of the spiritual breakthroughs, but also of a deepening of my relationship with you. Help me search diligently in my heart to listen intently to your voice, and to obey eagerly all your directions. I choose to truly “shema.”