The Divine Atonement
Have you ever embarked on a session of cleaning out an old cupboard, only to regret that you started unpacking everything, because now you are surrounded and overwhelmed by a heap of jumble strewn all over the floor? You sit there in a daze, wondering what you are going to do with it all, and how on earth you are going to fit it all back in? Something that seemed a simple task at first, turned into a marathon with you not knowing where to stop.
Dealing with the subject of ‘the atonement’ can be just like that. At first it seems quite a straightforward topic to deal with, but then the deeper you dig the more you have to deal with. In this article I am going to simply open the cupboard, have a peek inside and provide a brief overview.
Throughout the bible we are told that there exist two kingdoms, the heavenly kingdom and the earthly kingdom. Both are very real but operate on different levels. The angels and spiritual beings are of the heavens. This was part of God's first creation. God then went further and created what we live in, which is the earthly kingdom. While the angels were to exist and partner with God in the heavens, we were created to partner with him on the earth. Each has the ability to make decisions and take on management responsibilities, while the Lord God maintains overall sovereignty. Genesis 1:26, 2:15 & 20; 1 Kings 22:16-23; Daniel 4:13-17; Ephesians 6:12.
Both forms of being are created by God, but neither are considered to be perfect. Job 14:17-19 and 15:14-15.
When the two realms collided
In the creation narrative in Genesis chapter 1, when God made man and woman, 'they were good'. While they were made of the same material as all the animals (dust of the earth), they were different because they were made in his image and given similar characteristics. This allowed them to have a direct and personal relationship with God. It was a relationship that was intended to be two way and depended on trust, love, respect and unity.
Unfortunately though, something went wrong and mankind became detached from God, devoid of love for him and lost all respect and unity.
We learn that this event was due to the influence of a rebellious angel (from the heavenly kingdom) who used 'evil to bring about this calamity’.
It is important to understand…….....
A) Evil did not start with mankind and pre-existed their creation.
B) Evil is not a physical attribute, it is a moral one. However, its out working is often seen through physical actions.
C) Evil cannot exist in a vacuum, it is not an individual entity, it needs an individual like man to work through and exist.
Satan used evil like a virus to draw mankind away from God in 3 ways:
A) Inflict doubt in man's mind of the character of God, his life principles and his truths.
B) Create individual selfish desire or gratification that overwhelms right thinking and righteous living.
C) Encourage disobedience to God's divine life principles that prohibit us from fulfilling our willful desires.
The result is sin - turning our back on God, his love, His light and his goodness, which causes us to live in moral darkness, full of greed, fear, selfishness, envy, strife, hate and disease etc. Which are all the hallmarks of evil.
A) He is angry with Satan and mankind for ruining the harmony of Eden
B) He is broken hearted at the loss of relationship with mankind
C) He knows that the damage done is severe but not irreparable, and it means that he has to work to repair the damage. The solution would not be simple or immediate.
D) In the meantime all mankind would remain infected by the virus and deteriorate significantly. Some though would be more susceptible to its long term effects more than others.
Where does this all lead to?
The bible has never hidden the effects of sin/evil on mankind and actually records some of its unpalatable results. At times, the word of God is not pleasant to read and should create revulsion in the heart of every individual against evil. But sadly it does not, and mankind continues to commit similar atrocities, such is the power of the virus -evil.
God cries and grits his teeth over every incident caused by man's sin and evil. There are moments where it has led him to consider giving up on creating an antidote, and just destroying mankind all together, but his love for us overwhelms him. Genesis 6:6
Remember, God never caused the evil or its effects, but is the only one who has the knowledge and ability to come up with an antidote. In order to succeed, God at times has had to become purposeful himself and remove the parts of mankind that have become too overcome. He had no other choice in order that He in the end can save the many!
An analogy of this is when someone has a cancer in their body, often doctors have to drastically remove a part of that body in order to save the rest of it. Their initial hope would be to heal the infected part, but on many occasions there is no other choice in order to stop the cancer from going so far that it is completely irreversible.
In the end, his own divine blood is the antidote! To prepare mankind for his solution he first created a preliminary blood sacrificial system, introducing it through the Jewish nation, giving them a divine spiritual pattern and religious practice. It included a series of life instructions and religious ceremonies, the most significant holy day being 'The Day of Atonement', Leviticus 16:7-10; A day when the collective atonement of the nation of Israel took place, through animal sacrifice and the provision of a scapegoat. The concept of the shedding of blood and a substitute who would be used to carry away the sins of the people was set in place.
Ultimately, for it to work, God had to somehow become man and be the blood sacrifice himself. Again, he prepared mankind through the prophetic introduction of a Messiah, who is both God and man. Isaiah 53.; Zechariah 3:8-9; 9:10-11
The New Testament teaches that Jesus is God as man. He lived and worked in our earthly realm, which is infected by evil, but was never infected by it himself and overcame its effects and power. Satan did everything he could to try to infect Jesus, even getting the whole of mankind to work with him. But Jesus won! When his blood flowed down on that cross, it was pure, clean and completely uninfected. This was the ultimate divine and holy Day of Atonement! His blood is now the base for everyone to be healed and released from the power of sin. Hebrews 09:1-14; 10:10-25
This blood is the only thing that can be used on us to set us free. Those who believe its power, and use it are being set free. If we keep using it and living under its power, there will come a day when we will be totally free!
Sadly though, many choose not to believe in its power, they disbelieve the person of Jesus, with some even denying that he even existed, let alone that he could be God in the flesh. Instead they continue to live under the infection of the virus evil and its out-workings - moral darkness, greed, fear, lust, selfishness, envy, strife, abuse, hate, disease and spiritual rebellion.
God's vision does not stop with the forgiveness of sin. He wants to restore his relationship with mankind as it initially was in the garden. He is preparing a new creation that will combine the heavenly kingdom and the earthly kingdom together. When the time is complete He will collect those who received the covering of his blood along with the righteous ones in the Old Testament period, as they will be the ones who will be fully restored and live in this new kingdom.
Without Jesus’ atoning sacrifice there is no forgiveness, no reconciliation or relationship with God. Romans 3:25, Romans 5:11, and Romans 5:19. Surely, this makes atonement the Bible’s pivotal message.
Mark Baker – FOI Director
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