Central to the Christian faith is the subject of the atonement and it is said that all other teachings radiate from this one fact of faith.
Creation and Fall of Man
There is ample evidence around us of the creation which God who is the creator, the architect of all that we see, initiated in the beginning or when time began. The very first act of creation was to bring forth the one who is named the Amen–so let it be–in Rev.3:14. "These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." 2 Cor.1:20–"For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us."
The same is named the Word in John 1:1‑2 "In a beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word. This was in a beginning with the God." (Diaglott Interlineary word for word) In Col.1:15 we read that he is the first born of all creation. See also Prov.8:22‑31.
So, we see that God’s first act was to create a new life in the person of His son who we have come to know as the Lord Jesus Christ. This is an essential uniqueness of God that He alone is the giver of life. It is one thing to take of materials and create an object which in some cases may look lifelike but which does not move, does not breathe, does not see, does not hear, does not speak. It is quite another to take materials and create a living being.
Such was the case when God said to His son, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Gen.1:26) God formed man of the dust of the ground, He made a body and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; He quickened that body of Adam, and man became a living soul. (Gen.2:7)
Adam and Eve were created in perfection of body and mind–there was nothing slack about their creation, no imperfection of any sort. They had also the mind unique to man in which they were in the image of God–they could think, they could reason, they could communicate, they could create. They also, by reason of thought, could choose, select what to do, obey or disobey–they had free will, freedom of choice, freedom of action within the constraints of their environment and abilities.
However, along came Satan who had chosen to follow evil ways, seeking to usurp the authority of God. He got at Eve with the question: "yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?...Ye shall not surely die." (Gen.3:1,4) Eve was thus tempted, beguiled. She saw the tree was good for food, she saw the tree was pleasant to the eyes, she desired to become wise.
Eve fell for it and ate, gave the fruit also to Adam who ate and in doing so disobeyed his Creator and suffered the consequences. The elements of imperfection began to take root in their lives; death passed also on their children, their descendants. The curse of death: the wrath of God. (Eph.2:3) "In Adam all die." (1 Cor.15:22) Paradise lost.
The Law of Moses
For 4,000 years this situation continued, but in that time God manifested through the law He gave to Moses the principle of righteousness, of justice and redemption and a plan of salvation whereby He might show His compassion and love for mankind, His creation.
For every form of transgression, of sin, there was a commandment and a sacrifice for expiation of that sin; through the shedding of blood, in which is represented the life. Hence a life given, a life poured out, an atonement; it involved the giving of a life to redeem the living. Atonement was the great character of the law, but the weakness of it was that the sacrifices did not have a correspondence with the transgressors. It pointed the way to a ransom sacrifice, to holiness, to righteousness and reconciliation, to true reverence and worship. In the law reference to atonement occurs 70 times.
The law also only applied to Israel and so a greater sacrifice was necessary to be effective for all mankind. (Deut.6:4‑9; 10:12‑15)
The great Day of Atonement was celebrated every year in October. It was a very special event and the only time that the high priest entered the most holy, beyond the veil that separated the ark of the covenant from the holy place where the altar of incense was and the seven branch golden candlestick and the table of shewbread. The high priest could not enter the most holy at any other time "that he die not." (Lev.16:2,13)
The high priest also had to dress in linen and make a sin offering for himself and for his family by the sacrifice of a bullock with incense of burning coals from the fire of the altar, Lev.16:6,11,14 then sprinkle the blood upon the mercy seat and before it seven times. Then he would take the blood of the first goat (upon which the Lord Jesus’s lot fell) and sacrificed it for the sins of all the people and do likewise as an atonement for them all–here atonement meaning a covering—their sins were covered. (Heb.10:14)
The Levitical sacrifices covered the sins of Israel to cleanse them until and in anticipation of the Lord’s sacrifice which takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
Afterwards the high priest laid his hands on the head of the second of the two goats, the live goat, and confessed over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel; their transgression, their sins, putting them on the head of the goat which was then led away into the wilderness and let go, bearing away all their sins into an uninhabited land. (Lev.16:22)
When all this was complete the high priest would go into the tabernacle and change his clothes, leave them there and wash and put on his normal clothes of office and make a burnt offering for himself and the people.
All this was done on the 10th day of the 7th month, the Day of Atonement of each year it was held and for nearly 1,000 years until the captivity into Babylon.
The Lord’s Sacrifice and The Church
Our Lord fulfilled the requirements of the atonement for the sin of the world by his death on the cross. (1 Tim.1:15; 2:5‑6 & Rom.5:10‑11) Being perfect, that is without sin, Jesus had no need to make a sin offering for himself.
Because of Adam’s transgression Jesus paid a corresponding sacrifice so that as in Adam all die even so in Christ shall all be made alive. By one man, Adam, sin entered into the world and death by sin, for all have sinned; by one man, Jesus, the grace of God has come so that by belief in Jesus might come eternal life and the righteousness of God.
Now is the dispensation of grace through faith to the Church of God. Jesus was delivered for our sins and was raised again for our justification. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom.4:25; 5:1)
Jesus was raised by God and ascended into the holy place of the presence of God there to appear for us. (Heb.9:24‑28) Without our Lord’s sacrifice the Church of God could not have come into being; neither could he be the head of that Church which was kept secret from the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the days of the apostles by the preaching of the gospel–which is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. (Rom.1:16)
To the Church there rests the promises of God–the reward of faithful life in Christ. The apostles expressed this in the words of 2 Tim.4:7‑8; 1 Pet.5:4 and 2 Thess.2:13‑14. This glorious reward, the hope of the Church, would not have been possible unless the Lord had made an atonement for sin and redeemed and purchased the Church with his precious blood. (Acts 20:28; Eph.1:7&11‑14)
Kingdom of God
Before our Lord came there were men and women of faith who were subject to all sorts of experiences, too many to recount but we have a summary in Hebrews 11. To these God gave promises of a future and they died in faith holding to those promises. Abraham "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them..." (Heb.11:10,13)
The faithfulness of Jesus to God’s Will, will enable God to keep His promises to those heroes of faith. What a joy will be theirs. Both Jew and Arab claim Abraham as their father, so one can imagine what work of reconciliation he will do between these two as also Isaac was the father of Jacob and Esau.
Jesus also died a ransom for all to be testified in due course. It will be the turn of the nations to experience the mercy and kindness of God when Jesus comes to liberate mankind from the power of the Adversary and above all to raise the dead and restore life to this world. (Isa.25:6‑9)
The wonders for mankind in the Kingdom of God would not have been possible but for the atoning work of grace. For 1,000 years the life‑giving benefits of Christ’s sacrifice will be available to all who acknowledge him and prove their loyalty and faithfulness. They will not be subject any more to the evil powers of darkness, Satan and the like, who will suffer destruction. Those who will not acknowledge Jesus will suffer a second death.
Thus, restored mankind will enjoy the blessings of paradise regained when all the former things are passed away. This all made possible by the atonement gained by the sacrifice our Lord Jesus Christ made—a ransom for all to be testified in due time.