(Because of the extreme length of the present chapter I am presenting at the outset an outline of it, and I trust that this will serve as a guide to the reader who enters into a study of this fascinating, enlightening, and most important subject--D.L.C.)
By the Individual
By Israel Nationally
The Fulfillment of the Ritual of the Day of Atonement
Israel's National Confession
The Reappearance of Messiah
IN CHAPTER IX we discovered many things about Satan, the kingdom of darkness, and sin. In Chapter X we learned much about the terrible consequences of man's disobedience and the corruption of his nature by sin. In this connection, however, we shall do well to glance at these fundamental, basic facts in relation to the world in which we live and to our own condition spiritually in order to understand the real significance of the atonement as set forth in the Word of God.
Man, as we have seen in Genesis, chapters 1 and 2, was created in the image of God and was given dominion authority, and power over the earth. He was placed in the most favorable environment. Here he could have lived indefinitely, had he not sinned. The animals were perfectly submissive to him. All things were ideal. He was master of all he surveyed. It is quite likely that, if he had remained in fellowship with his maker and had not substituted his will for God's, he would have developed his physical nature and his natural body would have been transformed into its glorified state without suffering or pain. And illustration of this principle, though imperfect, will help us on this point. The caterpillar is the butterfly in its larva stage. It continues in this form until it lays aside its first form and puts on its gay robes of beauty. We then call it a butterfly. In a manner similar, though without pain and suffering, man's physical body would have been transformed into his glorious eternal body. The reason for this suggestion is found in I Corinthians 15:44-46, where we are told that "If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, the first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual." On this point I shall not be dogmatic. But man's disobedience and transgression certainly changed the entire picture.
According to the historical record in Genesis, chapter 3, the woman, being deceived by the serpent, yielded to his connivings, and Adam, her husband, transgressed. Sin, which existed prior to this time, entered the world. It contaminated the earth and the fullness thereof, changed the nature of the beast from that of harmlessness to that of viciousness and bloodthirstiness, and corrupted man's nature. This power has entered into every fiber of his being, has weakened his spiritual powers, and has given him an inclination away from the good and definitely disposed him toward evil. Along with sin came death.
Without doubt the one who has brought this terrible change into all the earth and upon all in it is none other than Satan who is called "the god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4), and who used the serpent as a cat's-paw. He is also called "the prince of this world" (John 12:31). In this connection let us remember that Satan was created the highest being possible. He sealed up the sum; that is, he sealed up, as we have already learned, completion and perfection. He was full of wisdom and was perfect in beauty. In other words, he was the highest and most powerful being whom God could and did create. To him the Almighty gave supreme power in the organization of the divine government. There was no created being who had the power which he possessed and the authority which he received. Though he fell, he still retained his power--with certain limitations. When man sinned and forfeited his rulership over the earth to Satan, the latter seized it and all things therein with a death grip. For centuries everything was held tenaciously in the clutches of his power. No created being dared match swords with him. Only Deity could do this. Michael would not contend with Satan but turned his case over to the Lord. "But Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9).
Humanly speaking, the problem which confronted the Almighty was to wrest the universe, especially man, out of this death grip of Satan. How could He do this? If this situation had involved only power, the Almighty certainly had that, since He is all-powerful. But other issues and factors, as we glean from the Scriptures, were involved. This fact we shall presently see.
In the language of God to the serpent there is an arresting prophecy: "… and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). The significance of this prediction was discussed in the previous chapter. As we saw from this study, the seed of the woman in the final conflict will gloriously triumph over Satan and his chief lieutenant, the Antichrist, and all their forces.
Pursuant to this plan the Lord through David announced His intention to pay a visit to man.
O Jehovah, our Lord,
How excellent is thy name in all the earth,
Who hast set thy glory upon the heavens!
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou established strength,
Because of thine adversaries,
That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
And the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him but little lower than God,
And crownest him with glory and honor.
Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen,
Yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
O Jehovah, our Lord,
How excellent is thy name in all the earth!
In the first verse of this marvelous hymn the psalmist, looking into the heavens, recognizes the existence of God and detects His glory reflected in the celestial bodies. Moreover, honest, truth seeking men throughout the world recognize the excellency of His name--His majestic glory. Of course under the present conditions thy are but dimly seen beneath the wreckage and ruin wrought in the world by Satan when man disobeyed God.
The Lord has purposed, according to verse 2, to use babes and sucklings in His great plan regarding the dissemination of His knowledge and truth. This thought is expanded in I Corinthians 1:18-31. God cannot work through the proud, the mighty, and the haughty, because they feel their self-sufficiency and do not realize their need of Him. But through the childlike and trusting ones He can and does work wonderfully. To the Apostle Paul He said, "my grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor. 12:9).
As the Psalmist David continues to look into the heavens at the moon and the stars, he is carried away in ecstasy. He can see behind them the presence of the Almighty Creator. Thus these celestial bodies constitute a wonder which grips his imagination. As he stands in silent meditation upon the glories of the heavens, the Holy Spirit flashed into his mind the thought that God is more mindful of man and more concerned about him than He is in regard to the entire material universe. Hence he exclaims, "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of Him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?" This rhetorical question indicates that God is more interested in man than He is in the entire realm of nature. In view of this fact we can understand why the Lord Jesus said that a man is profited nothing if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul (Matt. 16:26). From the language of the psalmist just quoted, we learn that God is so very much interested in man that He purposes to visit him. According to the Genesis account He called upon man at times in the Garden of Eden and conversed with him. After man's sin, however, this fellowship ceased. But it is revealed to King David that God is still interested in man and will pay another visit to him.
Why is the Lord so very engrossed in His disobedient creatures? The answer is in the next verse: "For thou hast made him but little lower than God, And crownest him with glory and honor. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands." As we have already seen, man was made in the natural and moral image of God. The moral part of his being, however, was marred almost to the vanishing point; but his natural image remains, to a certain extent, intact, as we have seen; nevertheless these powers have been weakened greatly and his being has become corrupt. Notwithstanding this fact God has not lost His interest in him. In this passage He announced to David His intention again to visit man.
Why this visit? The reason is expressed in the words, "And crownest him with glory and honor. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands." The Revised Version renders the Hebrew accurately. The imperfect tense here indicates incompleted action and is correctly rendered in our version in the present tense which fact shows that this prediction has never been fulfilled, but that God will accomplish it at the time of the visit here announced. From this language we see that He intends to reinstate man to the position of power and authority over the earth from which he originally fell. He is yet to be crowned with glory and honor and to be given the dominion and authority that he had when he was created; for, in the next statement we read, "Thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, Yea, and the beasts of the field …" The entire passage is a clear prediction that the Lord, though His plans were foiled by Satan for the time being through the disobedience of man, will yet come back to this original purpose and will reinstate man, placing him over the earth and the animal kingdom. Before He can do this, certain hindering causes must be removed.
I. THE REASONS FOR THE ATONEMENT
God is an omniscient being. All that He does is performed in righteousness and justice. Nothing of a capricious nature can be attributed to Him. What He does is designed for the good of all concerned.
But why is there any necessity for an atonement? Cannot God in His graciousness, love, and mercy forgive men their trespasses since they are weak? Do not the Scriptures say, "… he knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14)? Is He not omnipotent and omniscient, and cannot He do whatever He chooses? These and many other questions naturally arise, especially in our investigation of the necessity for the atonement. In considering this subject, we must bear in mind three things.
A. The Moral Character Of God
As has been discussed under "The God of Revelation," Chapter III, God is a rational, moral being. His immanent attributes are truth, love, and holiness. Being the very embodiment of truth with a heart overflowing with love, with the characteristic of holiness as the dominant attribute of His nature, He cannot, though He is omniscient and omnipotent, countenance sin. His love provides the means for that which satisfies His holiness, namely, a substitutionary atonement. Upon such a basis, as we shall see, He can be just and at the same time justify the ungodly who return to Him in repentance and faith and accept the means provided. The holiness of the Almighty therefore demands satisfaction for sin and unrighteousness.
B. God's Moral Government
As set forth in Chapter VII, God's government of the universe is of a moral character. He created the cherubim, seraphim, angels, and man, giving them the power of free choice. They being thus constituted, the Almighty deals with them, respecting the exercise of their wills. To pass over the sacred threshold of the individuality of any of His creatures is to destroy their free agency. Though man has sinned and plunged himself into the deep abyss of wickedness, God still respects man's freedom of choice but uses all moral suasion--short of forcing his will--to lead him to repentance and faith. God's moral government therefore requires that He deal with His creatures upon a moral, and spiritual basis.
C. Breaking Of Satan's Grip Upon Man And The Universe
In the discussion of Satan and his kingdom we saw that he became and still is the god of this world, the prince of the powers of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience. Since God's government is a moral one, the Lord, in order to rescue man from Satan, must, as stated in the section above, act upon moral principles. The power of Satan's grip upon the world, as we shall see in this discussion, could be broken by blood atonement alone, which satisfies the demands of God's holiness. By no other means, as we shall see, could his defeat be accomplished. The blood atonement therefore was necessary. The reason for and the full force of these positions will come out in the following discussion.
II. ATONEMENT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The word atonement is from Middle English and indicates etymologically "in accord or friendship; in agreement; as, to be, bring, make, or set, at one. That is, to be or bring into a state of agreement or reconciliation." Such is the definition of "at one" as given by Webster's Dictionary. It is from this phrase that we get our word "atone." Today this term has a number of meanings. That one which accords most nearly with the scriptural teaching is, "to make reparation, compensation, expiation, or amend for an offense of an offender." Under the word "atonement" Webster gives the following definition as archaic: "the state of, or act of bringing into, concord: restoration of family relations; reconcile." Another definition is "satisfactory reparation for an offense of injury."
At different times theologians have attempted to set forth the theory which explains thoroughly the scriptural teaching regarding the atonement. A study of the leading hypotheses that have been advanced reveals the fact that each has as its foundation some basic truth. Those propounding these theses have taken one statement, as a rule, have isolated it from all other biblical pronouncements regarding the work of Christ, and have built up a theory of the atonement. But, when most of them are put under the searchlight of biblical teaching, their weaknesses begin to appear. That men should formulate theories in regard to this most momentous question is not surprising. Furthermore, that they have, as rule, been unable to comprehend in one broad statement all the vital factors entering into it is likewise not a matter for amazement, since this doctrine is the very heart of the revelation of God. Turning aside therefore from the various theories advocated by excellent theologians, we shall look at the word itself and try to ascertain the fundamental facts underlying this marvelous doctrine.
A. Atonement In Type
1. The Institution of Sacrifices
In the early stages of His revelation God set forth certain basic teachings in the form of types or symbols. This practice is, of course, basically sound. It is in accord with the fundamental principles of psychology. One picture, according to the Chinese proverb, is worth ten thousand words. It is not surprising therefore that the Lord should set forth symbolically the most fundamental teaching of the Scriptures in the form of different types.
As soon as man had sinned, he realized that some drastic change had come over him, and that he was not what he had been. This feeling produced a sense of shame in both the man and his wife. They therefore, realizing their nakedness, attempted to cover themselves with fig leaves. Being thus attired, at the time when the Lord came to visit them, they, with a smiting conscience and an overwhelming sense of guilt, hid themselves from the divine presence. Upon His calling for them, they gave as the reason for their non-appearance that they were naked and were ashamed. This statement called forth an arresting question from the Lord: "Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" In the conversation which followed, both confessed their guilt, though each tried to shift the responsibility upon another. It was at this point that the Lord, addressing Satan through the serpent, made the announcement that the Redeemer of the world would come and would become victorious over his seed. Moreover, God foretold the lot of man, who was to go forth from his original home into an unfriendly world to battle for life and existence. But before the Lord put them forth, He did a most remarkable thing: "And Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). Where did He get these skins? There is but one reasonable answer: He slew some animals and used their skins as clothing for Adam and Eve--to hide their nakedness.¹
Probably the Lord gave Adam and Eve instructions that they were to slay these animals and take their skins for their clothing. It is also most highly probable that these animals were offered to God to make a blood atonement for their sins. One comes to this conclusion when one sees that animal sacrifices throughout the Patriarchal Period and the Jewish Dispensation were used of the Lord to make temporary atonement for the sins of the worshiper. It seems quite evident that there was a spiritual and ethical lesson which the Lord taught by the slaying of these animals and by his having Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness with the skins. But further than throwing out the suggestion at this stage of the investigation I cannot go. We shall however keep this thought in mind as we continue our study.
2. The Sacrifices of Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel were born and grew to manhood after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. In the process of time they made offerings to the Lord. Cain brought of the fruit of the soil, whereas Abel offered of the firstlings of the flock. The Lord "had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect" (Gen. 4:4,5). Why this discrimination? The Genesis record does not tell; however, this information is given by the writer of Hebrews: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4). From Romans 10:17 we understand that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. In view of this fact we may be absolutely certain that God gave instructions to both Cain and Abel as to what offering they should make. We have already seen that there was a primitive revelation which the patriarchs had and to which reference is made in Genesis 26:5. Thus we may be sure that Abel's faith was based upon a clear revelation which the Lord had made to him.
Why did Cain substitute the fruit of the ground for the lamb of the flock? The record does not tell. We simply know that he did. He substituted his wisdom for that of the Almighty. He doubtless did as his mother Eve had done--allowed Satan to deceive him. God's ways are righteous and infinitely higher than those of man. It is for God to speak and for man to hearken and obey.
Figuratively speaking, Abel screened himself behind the blood of the animal sacrifice which the Lord commanded. Cain had no such blood to protect him. He therefore was rejected upon the basis of not having the proper type of offering.
This is a tremendous lesson for us today. If one is to be acceptable in the sight of God, one must bring the proper offering, or one will not be accepted.
3. Sacrifices in Patriarchal Times
The next sacrifice which we observe in the biblical record is that of Noah. This he offered when he came out of the ark after the Flood (Gen. 8:20-22). In verse 20 we are informed that he made burnt offerings upon an altar. When Jacob and Laban separated, Jacob offered a sacrifice in the mountain and called his brethren "and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mountain" (Gen. 31:54). Though this sacrifice is not designated by name, it is quite evident that it was a peace offering; because the worshipers partook of it before the Lord. That these early offerings were by divine inspiration is most highly probable, for we learn from Genesis 26:5 that "Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." Further confirmation is seen in the fact that Melchizedek was priest of God Most High in Jerusalem. To him Abraham paid tithes. It becomes apparent then that sacrifices from the beginning of man's sin were offered by the express command of the Almighty. It is to be presumed that they had a significance similar to that which was indicated by the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, namely that of propitiating God, against whom man had sinned.
4. The Passover
When the Hebrews were in Egypt, their bondage under the Pharaohs became intolerable. They therefore cried unto the Lord. He sent Moses to deliver them. This great lawgiver gave instructions to the Hebrews to slay a lamb on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month of their religious year. Each family was to have its own lamb. The blood was to be sprinkled upon the doorpost and the lintels of the home. Being screened behind this blood, the Hebrews were to partake of the Passover lamb which was prepared according to instructions. The reason for the sprinkling of the blood is expressed in Exodus 12:13: "And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt." That night the death angel passed over the land and every house the doors of which had not been sprinkled with the blood of the passover lamb suffered the loss of the first-born--from Pharaoh downward to his least servant. These historical facts show that great significance was attached to the blood of the passover lamb. Because of its presence the first-born of every Hebrew family was spared the stroke of death by the angel. For the account of the inauguration of the Passover,² read Exodus, chapters 12 and 13.
¹ Men and women today should realize that it was divine wisdom which clothed man. Such an action was evidently a necessity. Before man's disobedience there was no reason for his being clothed. But since that time his nature has been corrupted and his present situation demands that he cover his body. What is true of man is also true of the woman.
The trend of the present day which leads one to expose the body to the sight of the opposite sex is indeed a very unwholesome situation. It is positive proof of the morally degenerate condition of the human heart. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9). Moreover, it is a definite sign of the end of the age.
² Throughout the centuries--from the days of Moses to the present time--Israel has annually kept the Passover. Of course it is impossible for her to observe it as God commanded--since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and her world-wide dispersion. Nevertheless her observing it is silent, unimpeachable testimony regarding this institution and what it commemorates and typifies. All informed Hebrews today admit that it is impossible for them properly to keep the Passover while they are dispersed among the nations and have no temple service. Yet they observe it the best they can.
(Continued on the next page)