The high holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur foreshadow the last days and the final judgment. Yom Kippur comes just ten days after Rosh HaShanah, the day on which the Torah commands the blowing of the shofar. The blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah warns the congregation to repent because the days of judgment have begun. The fanfare of Rosh HaShanah sets the scene for the Day of Judgment in the heavenly courtroom.
When the shofar sounds on Rosh HaShanah, the doors to heaven swing open. The officers of the heavenly courtroom assemble and court is convened. The Judge takes His seat upon His throne and the books of judgment are brought forth (Daniel 7:9–10).
The Torah says:
This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you. (Leviticus 16:29)
The books of judgment consist of the Book of Life, the Book of Death, and the Book of the Inbetween. For ten days, the heavenly court conducts the trial of every soul. At the conclusion, on the Day of Atonement, every name receives an inscription in either the Book of Life or in the Book of Death. Those recorded in the Book of Life will live another year. Those recorded in the Book of Death will not live to see another Day of Atonement.
In the heavenly courtroom, the devil plays the role of prosecutor. Satan (שטן) is Hebrew for “adversary.” The satan is “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). He presents a list of every person’s sins to the court.
At the end of Yom Kippur, the Judge pronounces the verdicts and seals them. The books are closed. The gavel falls. Judgment is finished. One last shofar blows in heaven and the gates close for another year.
When believers first encounter the idea of Yom Kippur as an annual judgment day, they often misconstrue the meaning by placing upon it the weight of eternal destiny. Believers suppose that the tradition about the heavenly court has damnation in view, as if the court considers whether or not to damn each individual soul. When seen through this perspective, believers quickly discard the entire tradition on the basis that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua” (Romans 8:1).
The traditional, high-holiday, heavenly courtroom scenario is not supposed to be imagined as the final judgment. Instead, those who are written in the Book of Life are simply granted another year of life on earth. The rabbinic tradition on this matter says nothing about the eternal destiny of their souls, although, being in the Book of Death might usher someone to final judgment a little quicker.
Sometimes believers are reluctant to participate in the confessions, prayers, and petitions of the Day of Atonement because they feel that they have already received forgiveness as an accomplished fact and to ask for forgiveness somehow fails to acknowledge the work of Yeshua. It is true that we find the forgiveness of sins through the grace of Messiah, but that does not absolve us from repentance and contrition. Believers should not object to repenting, fasting, and offering prayers for mercy and forgiveness as if our forgiveness is a foregone conclusion. The Master teaches us to fast, to pray, to confess sin, to forgive others, and to beseech God for forgiveness. Even though our salvation is assured in Messiah, we still face consequences for sin both in this world and in the World to Come. The New Testament is filled with admonitions to repent, confess sin, and pray for forgiveness.