In order to become more familiar with the atonement, we need to be able to to define, understand, and see it in action. When we are able to better comprehend the value of the atonement, I truly believe this will enable us to grow closer to the Lord and unlock joys that only Christ can offer.
I find that three things that are necessary before there can be an atonement. First, there must be a commandment or a law. A line drawn in the sand to know what the boundaries are. The second requirement is an offense or a transgression to that law, and the third necessity is an acceptable peace offering. If the offering is received, then the two parties can be reconciled to their prior relationship.
The best definition I have been able to settle on for the atonement is “The Restoration to the Divine Favor”. Understanding that we were once in a relationship with the Holy Father, we then sinned against His law, thereby separating us from Him. The only way for us to be restored back to our prior relationship is if the acceptable offering is made. Knowing this, brings forth the question, “What is an acceptable offering for our sin?”
Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission
Scripture teaches us that not just any peace offering will work. The Bible teaches us that Cain was a tiller of the ground so he brought forth fruit of the ground as an offering unto the Lord. Abel, his brother, was a keeper of the sheep. He brought the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof. The Lord has respect unto Abel’s offering but had not respect toward Cain’s. I believe one of the reasons the Lord had respect to Abel’s offering was because he gave the very best he had instead of giving what was left over. The other reason is because it was a sacrifice and the shedding of animal’s blood was the foreshadowing of Christ.
2 Cor 5:21 For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be the righteousness of God in Him
The animals were completely blameless of our sins. They did not help us commit sin, nor did they cause us to error in any way. Man was completely responsible for his own condition yet the shedding of the innocent animal blood was an acceptable offering for the Lord. The innocent for the guilty, the sinnless for the sinner. In order to be cleansed by blood, the blood needs to be pure. If a person baths in dirty water, how can they expect to be clean? The shedding of our blood for our sins would never work. This is why we needed a substitutionary sacrifice. Someone who could step in on our behalf and provide for us what we were unable to supply.
The perfect illustration of the prophecy of Christ can be seen on Mount Moriah with Abraham and Isaac. Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the sacrifice. Before Abraham could sacrifice his son, the Lord caused a ram to get caught in thicket by its horns. The ram, being a replacement for Isaac, much like Christ is the substitute for all mankind.
Lev 16:30 for on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord
In the old testament, it was man who made the atonement and man that provided the sacrifice by taking the life of an unwilling participant (animal). There was no life given from the shedding of animal’s blood, only forgiveness for past sins. The animals had no say in the matter. They were selected and killed. When Christ came, He was truly a gift from God. Jesus offered Himself as a flawless sacrifice, paying the penalty of the fallen Adam and redeeming those who believe in Him and repent of their own sins. Christ, being perfect and the life, laid His own life down for us and took it up on the third and appointed morning (John 10:17-18). Christ provides more than just the remission of past sins, He also grants eternal life. Because of His perfection and His eternal gift, the Bible teaches us that “There is no more offering for sin” (Heb 10:18)
1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins