Understanding the Atonement
by George Sidney Hurd --
This question was presented to me a few days ago and I felt that it was a vital question which deserves a thoughtful response from the Scriptures.
Obviously, if the question is whether or not His love for us changes, the answer is that God’s love never ceases, and His mercies never come to an end. The Father didn’t begin to love us at the cross – He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet ungodly sinners and at enmity with Him, He sent His Son to die in our place that we might live unto Him. (Rom 5:6-11)
If the question is whether or not His disposition and determination to save and restore all mankind changed at the cross, the answer again is, no. His eternal plan of redemption through the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world has never changed. He has sworn by Himself that to Him every knee shall bow in heaven, on earth and even under the earth, and every tongue shall confess Jesus Christ as Lord, taking an oath of loyalty to Him. (Isa 45:22-24 Phil 2:10) To Paul the mystery was revealed that in the dispensation of the fulness of the times all creation would be reunited in Christ. (Eph 1:10) The restoration of all which was prophesied since the beginning of time shall be fulfilled as promised. (Acts 3:21)
God’s plan for the ages is summed up by Paul in Romans 11:36, “For of (ek) Him and through (dia) Him and to (eis, ‘into’) Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” All that which came out of God as to source (which includes all of creation, both visible and invisible), is sustained by Him and will ultimately be reunited into Him (eis) in the consummation when God shall be all in all in eternity. (1Cor 15:28) The end result of God’s creation story does not end in unspeakable tragedy for all but the elect of this age, but rather culminates in the final restoration of all to a far greater glory than that of Adam and Eve before the fall. What God commences He perfects!
What happened at the Fall?
In order to answer the question as to whether or not the cross changed God’s attitude towards us we must go back to the fall in Eden. In what sense did our relationship with God change after the fall?
Sin and Death entered by the Fall
God told Adam that if they were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die that very day. He said: “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die (or ‘dying you shall die’).” Nevertheless, we see that they continued living for nearly a millennium. Why didn’t Adam and Eve physically die on the very same day they ate the forbidden fruit? In what sense was this fulfilled?
In the first place, we need to understand that there is more than one death. When Paul said that the wages of sin is death, many have mistakenly thought that he was saying that if you commit just one sin in your lifetime you are condemned to die. But “sin” appears with the definite article and should read “the sin.” In the context, we see that Paul was saying that the wages of the one sin – Adam’s sin, was death for him and all his descendants. He demonstrates this by saying that even in the time between Adam and Moses when sin wasn’t imputed as a transgression, everyone nevertheless died. (Rom 5:12-14)
There is physical death and there is spiritual death. While space doesn’t allow me to elaborate here, death is not the cessation of existence as the materialists perceive it, but rather a separation: When we die physically our soul is separated from our body; when we die to sin we are separated from sin; when we die to the Law we are separated from the Law in order to live unto Christ, etc. In the same manner, when we die spiritually our spirit is separated from God who is Spirit. As I demonstrate in my book “Extermination or Restoration,” none of these deaths refer to a cessation of existence but rather speak of a separation.
A separation occurred the very moment that Adam and Eve acted independently from God in disobedience. They died spiritually in the sense of being separated from spirit-to-Spirit communion with God who is Spirit. Self-consciousness replaced God-consciousness, and for the first time they became aware of their nakedness. Their reaction was to hide from God and this death or separation continues in all of Adam’s race until they become reconciled to God in their hearts through Christ, the Last Adam, who is a life-giving Spirit. (1Cor 15:45)
I believe that Satan, the accuser, was right there reminding God of His word when He said that they would surely die. Satan is a legalist in the sense that he knows that God cannot lie and therefore he laid claim to the power of death – he now had the legal right to take their lives. And I believe that he would have taken their lives right then and there, but God in His mercy intervened, shedding the blood of innocent animals to cover them.
What was God’s response to this separation? Wrath? No. While spiritual death was the immediate result, God still sought after them even though they, through their disobedience, had broken communion with Him. So, while the relationship between them and God changed due to spiritual death, God still acted towards them with love and compassion. He even promised Eve on that very same evening (in seed form) that her seed would eventually bring redemption and restoration. Instead of wrath God gave the promise of restoration. So far there is no wrath.
Nevertheless, apart from the promised Seed that would come and restore life through His death and resurrection, their spiritual death would have been eternal and irreversible. Having been born under the sentence of Adam’s original sin we all came into this world spiritually stillborn and alienated from the life of God. (Eph 2:5; 4:18) There was nothing anyone from Adam’s seed could have done to reverse the death sentence resulting from Adam’s original sin.
However, when Christ became flesh, He was not of Adam’s seed but of the woman’s seed and was conceived of the Holy Spirit, thereby making Him exempt from Adam’s original sin and resulting death sentence. Contrary to the first Adam, Christ as the woman’s seed lived a perfect life of total obedience to the Father and was illegally executed by Satan, the ruler of this age, thereby destroying Satan’s legal power over death which he had acquired by man’s default in the Garden. (Heb 2:14) By Christ’s death and resurrection He, as the Last Adam, will make alive all who died in the first Adam when he sinned. (1Cor 15:22,55,56)
Our Sins are a result of Adam’s Original Sin and subsequent spiritual Death.
The consequence of Adam’s sin and resulting death is that we are all conceived in sin in a state of death or separation from God. (Ps 51:5) Man was originally created in God’s image and likeness in order to enjoy communion with Him. God is Spirit, and in the beginning man was also predominately spirit. However, when he died spiritually, he became separated from God and predominately “flesh.” (Gen 6:3) Jesus said that separate from Him we can do nothing. (Jn 15:5) He said that apart from the life which comes from the Spirit the flesh profits nothing. (Jn 6:63)
Some mistakenly think that we are born innocent and only subsequently acquire sinful tendencies. However, in the Scriptures we see that we were born sinners due to Adam’s original sin. Through one man’s offense, death reigned over all his race and we became sinners. (Rom 5:17-19) We are not sinners because we sin – we sin because we are sinners.
It is our Sins which provoke God’s Wrath.
The first time we see mention of God’s wrath it is directed – not against original sin, but against the obstinate sins of Pharaoh and his army, and His wrath is seen to result in their temporal destruction. (Ex 15:7) And we see the wrath of God consistently revealed in this manner throughout both the Old and New Testaments. (Ex 22:24; Nu 31:33; Dt 9:8; 29:23,28; 2Chron 29:8; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6; Rev 6:16,17; 11:18; 14:10,19; 16:19, etc.) Even Jesus Himself, whom the Postmodern Progressives seek to confine to a cruciform mold,  speaks of the vengeance of God and His wrath which was going to be poured out upon Israel for rejecting their Messiah King:
“For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:22-24)
Christ didn’t come to personally destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD., as Preterists would have us believe. But in His wrath, God gave them over to their enemies, just as He previously did when they were invaded by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. As the writer of Hebrews says: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:30-31)
Postmodern Progressives often try to reduce God to the point of becoming a permissive and consenting father who never becomes angry with our sin and rebellion. They say that Jesus on the cross is the only true revelation of the Father and therefore, according to them, God has always manifested cruciform love. Denying the inerrancy of the Scriptures, they use their limited model of Jesus to filter out all Scriptures which do not fit within their cruciform mold. In this manner they invalidate all the Scriptures which do not fit their manmade mold.
However, a fuller understanding of the Jesus of the Bible demolishes this mold. They fail to give due consideration to the numerous non-cruciform warnings and woes which He pronounced against the unrepentant. (Matt 11:21-24; 13 27,28; 18:7; 25:41; Lu 12:46-48, etc.) And this is not even taking into account how Jesus portrays Himself in the book of Revelation.
Jesus doesn’t present the Father as cruciform in His judgments. For example, speaking to those who do not forgive as they were forgiven, He gave the parable of the servant who was forgiven a great debt by his master and then turned around and demanded immediate payment of a small debt owed him by a fellow servant. Jesus said the following:
“Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matt 18:32-35)
Clearly, Jesus here is not presenting the Father in a cruciform manner. God is love, but what many fail to understand is that His love is multiform and not always cruciform. A father who simply says to his defiant child “peace be unto you,” even when his child curses him and defies his authority, could be called a passive father but hardly a loving father. A loving father is not negligent nor indifferent. He corrects and disciplines as necessary for the long-term benefit of the child whom he loves. Some try to reduce Father God to a passive father who simply smiles upon us no matter how defiant of him his children may be and how much damage they are inflicting upon others. However, that is not the Father presented to us in the Scriptures. Whom He loves He disciplines and even scourges when necessary in order that we may partake of His righteousness. (Heb 12:5-11)
Additionally, many only refer to God as Father, without giving Him due tribute as King of kings and Lord of lords to whom all reverence and godly fear is due. He is also a consuming fire and the Judge of the living and the dead. (1Pet 4:5) In light of this Paul said:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror (phobos) of the Lord, we persuade men.” (2 Cor 5:10-11)
While God is our Father, that in no way diminishes the fact that He is also our Judge and that we need to acknowledge and respect Him as such. Even Abraham, being called “a friend of God,” referred to Him as the Judge of all the earth. In contrast to this, the modern tendency is to form God in our own image. Many today cut and paste the Scriptures in order to present God in a manner which accommodates our cultural norms, personal tastes and even sinful lifestyles. Indeed, some of today’s brightest minds have devoted their energies and their amazing ingenuity to deconstructing the Scriptures and reformulating cleverly devised myths, half-truths and misrepresentations of the God of the Bible in such a way as to deceive all but the most wary and vigilant students of the Word.
Contrary to popular belief in some circles, throughout the New Testament we see the wrath of God being manifest wherever there is persistent unrepentant sin and rebellion. Paul in Romans begins by demonstrating that the whole world stands guilty and condemned under the wrath of God. He says:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (Rom 1:18)
Here we see that men intuitively know when they are sinning against God, but rather than repenting of their sins they suppress the truth in order to continue in a life of sin. Paul says that even the Gentiles who do not have the Law, have the Law written on their hearts, leaving them without excuse. (Rom 2:15,16) This refusal to acknowledge sin provokes God to anger. The Psalmist says: “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Ps 7:11) However, God’s anger or wrath should never be mistaken for a lack of love. To the contrary, the absence of anger in the face of sin and rebellion would be an indication of indifference and apathy rather than love.
Paul further makes it clear that, even when man isn’t immediately judged and punished for his sin and rebellion, God nevertheless has a settled attitude of anger against all willful sin and a time of reckoning awaits the unrepentant. The wicked often mistake God’s patience for passivity and tolerance of sin. But Paul states that God’s anger against all the ungodliness of the impenitent is being reserved for the day of judgment:
“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each one according to his deeds.” (Rom 2:5-6)
So here we see that, although God doesn’t always act in wrath, swiftly judging sin during one’s lifetime, as He sometimes does when He as the Judge of the Earth deems it to be necessary, as in the case of Pharaoh’s army being drowned in the sea, or Ananias and Saphira, setting them forth as an example, etc. His wrath against all unrepentant sin is accumulating or being treasured up for the final Judgment or the day of wrath.
We also see that even when God in His wrath intervenes with judgment, as He did with Sodom and the surrounding cities, those who persist in their sins must still stand before God as Judge in the day of His wrath. Jesus said of those who saw His works and still did not repent that it would be more tolerable for Sodom in the day of Judgment than it would be for them. (Matt 11:24)
Some Inclusivists would say that there is no them and us; the saved and the unsaved; the justified and the condemned; those who are still dead in sin and those who are alive; children of wrath and children of God, etc. They argue that since Christ died for all and all died with Christ at the cross, then all are already alive unto God; they are already saved, justified and made alive, but they just don’t know it yet.
While it is not possible to give full consideration to this error here, I would just like to point out that when Jesus commissioned the disciples to preach the gospel to all nations He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) This is why when the Philippian jailor asked Paul what he had to do in order to be saved, he didn’t respond saying: “You’re already saved, you just don’t know it yet.” No. He said: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:30,31) Salvation is not personally experienced until we believe on Jesus Christ and confess Him as Lord. (Rom 10:9,10) Before being regenerated we were dead in our sins and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Eph 2:3) We do not become a part of the new creation in Christ until we are regenerated or born again. (Jn 3:3-7; Eph 2:1-5)
Indeed, all will eventually be effectually drawn to Christ and will be saved. (Jn 12:32) In the end all will have believed, bowing the knee to Him and confessing Him as Lord. (Phil 2:10) All will finally be included in the new creation. (2Cor 5:17, cf. Rev 21:5; Eph 1:10) However, according to Jesus Himself, until the moment of one’s visitation comes and he believes, that person stands condemned before God. (Jn 3:18)
Even in this present age of grace Paul warns believers against being deceived into thinking that we can continue in unrepentant sin without provoking God to anger. Paul says:
“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.” (Eph 5:3-7)
So, we have seen that while God has always loved all unconditionally - even after the fall, His settled attitude toward all unrepentant sin has always been that of wrath. Anyone who is a parent understands that anger is an essential part of parental love in the face of sin and rebellion.
However, God is more than our Father – He is also a just Judge. And, as we shall see, His immutable justice does not allow Him to simply pass over sins. He can only forgive sins based upon the fact that His perfect justice was satisfied upon the cross in Christ our substitute. The unrepentant are storing up wrath for themselves in the day of wrath and the righteous judgment of God the Judge of all, when the unrepentant will receive a just recompense according to their deeds recorded in the books. (Rev 20:12) According to Jesus the books contain a thorough record containing every detail of our lives - even including the very words we have spoken. (Matt 12:36,37)
An essential element of the gospel is that Christ became sin for us in order that we may become the righteousness of God through faith in Him. Through our union with Him in the new birth we are no longer subjects of God’s wrath and the resulting condemnation. Jesus becomes our righteousness, thereby delivering us from the coming wrath. (1Thess 1:10) While Postmodern theologians chafe at this, Christ’s expiation of our sins, theologically referred to as “the atonement,” is clearly a penal atonement made on our behalf by Christ, enabling God to be just while at the same time justifying the ungodly who repent and put their faith in Christ as their propitiatory sacrifice.
The Penal Substitutionary Atonement
Perhaps no biblical doctrine is under greater attack in our day than that of the Penal Substitutionary Atonement of Christ. It is grossly misrepresented and ridiculed by both the Modern and the Postmodern theologians of our time. They argue that the theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement is nothing more than the invention of Calvin’s legal mind which led him to see Christ’s substitutionary death as satisfying God’s justice. It is true that Calvin first studied to be a lawyer during a time when government was based upon law, and his legal mind enabled him to recognize and expound upon the legal aspect of the atonement with more precision that former theologians.
Anselm in the tenth century, during the time of the feudal system in which nobility ruled, put forth the Satisfaction Theory of the Atonement, which saw Christ’s substitutionary death as the satisfaction of God’s offended nobility. Calvin correctly pointed out that the language of Scripture speaks of judgment against offenses of God’s justice, rather than God punishing mankind for having offended His honor. Anselm was the first to argue that, since sin was committed against God’s infinite nobility, just one sin against His honor was deserving of eternal punishment. Clearly this is not a satisfactory explanation of the atonement! God’s law prescribes just punishment commensurate to the offense committed against justice. Nowhere in Scripture is God said to mete out infinite punishment simply because His honor was offended.
The Language of Scripture is clearly Penal
Surely it won’t do to argue that since Calvin lived in a law-oriented society that it influenced his view of the atonement. The entire legal system that the West today is modeled after was developed by the Romans of Paul’s time, so the same could be argued concerning him. Indeed, the language which Paul uses to describe what Christ accomplished upon the cross involves clearly juridical terms, used in the Roman legal system at that time.
However, the atonement is not based upon Roman law and justice, but rather upon the very Law of God and upon His justice. Both Old and New Testaments present God using terms which are clearly juridical. He is depicted as the Judge of all. (Gen 18:25; Heb 12:23) He has a throne for judgment before which all must stand. (Ps 9:7,8; Rev 20:11) The foundation of His throne is righteousness and justice. (Ps 89:14; 97:2) Apart from grace, all will be judged according to the Law, found guilty and condemned. (Rom 2:13,16; James 2:10) All men are demonstrated to be guilty before God. (Rom 3:19)
So far, we see juridical terms consistently employed, showing all mankind to be guilty and condemned before a holy God who is also the Judge of all. That brings us up to the atonement. Are the passages which reveal Christ’s atoning sacrifice also expressed in juridical terms? Yes. He was born under the Law in order to redeem us from the Law. (Gal 4:4,5) He lived a perfect life under the Law without sin. (1Jn 3:4,5; 1Peter 2:22; Heb 4:15) He became a curse under the Law by hanging upon a tree, being numbered with the transgressors. (Gal 3:13; Luke 22:37; Mark 15:28) He was delivered over because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification. (Rom 4:25; 5:16; Isa 53:5) Taking on the likeness of sinful flesh, He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us. (Rom 8:3,4) These are all legal terms which were in common use within every legal system of that time. Even the biblical terms “expiation” and “propitiation,” although not part of secular legal terminology, nevertheless are essential to God’s justice. Expiation and propitiation are foundational elements in God’s justice, making it possible for Him to be just and justify the ungodly. (Rom 3:25,26)
Christ our Passover was Sacrificed for Us. (1Cor 5:7)
While human laws are based largely upon principles contained in God’s Law, it is an error to try to confine God’s Law to man’s laws. For example, under God’s Law there is a provision which allows for the forgiveness or remission of sins by the shedding of innocent blood. (Heb 9:22; Matt 26:28) This is an integral part of God’s Law which is a stumbling block to those who do not have a revelation of the wisdom of the cross and seek to bind God to a strictly human justice system.
God, from the beginning said that death would be the consequence of sin, and since God cannot lie, He couldn’t simply go back on His word. However, in His mercy He shed the innocent blood of animals to cover Adam and Eve. Under the Law death was the penalty of disobedience, but God made provision, allowing for an innocent victim’s blood to be offered to make propitiation for the sins of the people: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement (expiation) for the soul.” (Lev 17:11) Many try to undermine God’s sacrificial system by associating it with pagan blood sacrifices. However, God’s provision for forgiveness by blood sacrifice preceded these pagan perversions. Blood sacrifices demanded by the demon-gods were designed to distort and malign God’s merciful means of reconciliation through the Lamb of God, and sadly many Progressives today have played into their hands.
The English word “atonement” is an unfortunate rendering of the Hebrew “kippur,” since atonement speaks more to the result of the “kippur” which specifically means “expiation,” or “the removal of sin by sacrifice.” The word “atonement” is a 16th century term meaning “at-one-ment.” The word atonement doesn’t even have an equivalent in other languages. The Spanish language correctly renders it “expiación” which means the same as our English word expiation. The expiation is what made at-one-ment or reconciliation with God possible by taking away our sins, but the term in and of itself only has reference to the expiatory sacrifice. Since life is in the blood, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, since it is the blood which makes expiation (kippur) for the soul. (Lev 17:11)
This mistranslation of the word “kippur” has given place to the modern notion that forgiveness and reconciliation with God are possible without the shedding of Christ’s blood in expiation for our sins and that God didn’t need to be reconciled to us, but rather it was only we who needed to be reconciled unto Him. This, in spite of the fact that Jesus was declared to be “the Lamb of God who takes away (or expiates) the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29) The Postmodern version is more akin to the Moral Influence Theory which would devoid the blood of Christ of any redemptive value, saying that Christ merely demonstrated “cruciform” love as an example to us by absorbing our sins into Himself without retaliation. But the Apostle John clearly states the reason for Christ’s life and death. He says: “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins.” (1John 3:5) Jesus Himself, on the night of His passion said: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt 26:28) Likewise, the writer of Hebrews says that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Heb 9:22, cf. 10:18) Clearly, the remission or forgiveness of sins refers to God’s forgiveness and remission of our sins, thereby enabling Him to justly justify us.
Accepted in the Beloved
“to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph 1:6-7)
Returning to the question, did Christ’s sacrifice on the cross change God’s attitude towards us? the answer is yes and no. Did God still love us, even in our sin? Yes. But could He, being a just and holy God, simply overlook our sin? No. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (Rom 1:18) By the shed blood of Christ, the Lamb of God without blemish or spot, our sins have been propitiated before the Most Holy God who has always loved us. Through His blood there is forgiveness and acceptance for all who receive Him.
Some argue that God can simply overlook sin since Jesus was equally God and He nevertheless befriended sinners. However, we must understand that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit equally inhabit eternity and therefore from their eternal perspective the Lamb of God slain for the forgiveness and justification of those same sinners has always been a present reality to them. (Rev 13:8) From the beginning, when God spoke with Adam and Eve after the fall, to the present in which the Holy Spirit continues indwelling us even when we sin, (cf. 1Cor 6:15-19) God has always been able to remain just and holy while at the same time interacting with sinners. As Paul says:
“being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:24-26)
So, we see that, due to the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ which satisfied God’s justice for our offenses, God can be seen as just while at the same time rubbing shoulders with sinners. That is not to say that He isn’t grieved and angered by our sin, or that He will not intervene to judge sin if we fail to judge ourselves. (Ps 7:11; Eph 4:30; 1Cor 11:31,32; James 4:4-6) Neither does it mean that our communion with Him isn’t broken by unrepentant sin. (Ps 66:18; 1Jn 1:6,7) Nor does it mean that God will not finally judge all unrepentant sin. It simply means that God can be gracious and merciful to mankind because the Lamb of God has made propitiation for our sins by His shed blood on our behalf.
Progressives argue that the blood of Christ doesn’t change how God relates to us, but rather it simply cleanses our conscience, affecting how we relate to God. This is based upon a misapplication of the reference to our conscience in Hebrews. I here quote the whole passage to see its meaning in the context:
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:11-15)
In the context, how is the blood of Christ seen to cleanse our conscience? We have already seen that the shedding of blood was for the remission of our sins in the sight of God. Here in the context we see that Christ entered the Most Holy Place not made with hands, of which the earthly tabernacle was only a pattern. He presented His own blood upon the heavenly propitiatory, thereby making propitiation before God for the sins of the whole world. (1Jn 2:2) When it says that Christ was our “propitiation” it is the word hilasterion which refers to the expiatory sacrifice, or the sacrifice which satisfies God’s justice concerning our sins, enabling God to remove them as far as the east is from the west. It is God who says He will remember our sins no more because of the removal of them from Himself. (Heb 10:18) Our consciences are cleansed only by the knowledge that God has removed our sins from us and remembers them no more because of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice on our behalf.
From the very beginning God was pointing us to the once and for all sacrifice, by which He, in the person of the Son, would make expiation for our sins through His shed blood upon the cross. The Passover was given as a clear shadow of Christ our Passover who would be sacrificed for us. (1Cor 5:7) The Passover lamb had to be without spot or blemish. It was to be slain for the sins of the people and placed upon the doorposts of their homes so that the judgment which fell upon the land would pass over them. The Lord said:
“And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Ex 12:13)
In the same manner, “having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Rom 5:8-10) We have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1Peter 1:19) To deny the efficacy of the blood of Christ is to count the blood of Christ by which we have received the remission of sins as a common thing. (Heb 10:29)
Redemption is integrally related to the expiatory sacrifice of Christ, since His sacrifice of Himself obtained our redemption. We were redeemed by His blood. (Col 1:14) Redemption refers to a price having been paid in order to obtain something. What was obtained for us through Christ’s redeeming blood? Who was the blood that redeemed us presented to? Did Christ’s redemption change the way God relates to us? These are important questions which are often ignored or glossed over.
Paul says that we were bought with a price. (1Cor 6:20) Peter says that the redemptive price paid was the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1Peter 1:18-20) Jesus said that He came to give His life a ransom for (anti, “in the place of”) many. (Matt 20:28) The word “ransom” is lutron which means “the redemptive price.” Paul clarifies that the many referred to are all mankind. He said:
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom (antilutron, “a substitutionary redemptive price”) for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Tim 2:5,6)
Here we see Christ’s redemptive death on the cross to be a ransom paid “in the place of” (anti) all mankind. And in due time (in the time of their visitation) it will have been testified to all. Here we also see that Jesus Christ in His humanity offered His blood as a Mediator between God and man. So, to whom did the Man Jesus Christ give Himself as a ransom? To God.
God said that the penalty for Adam’s original sin would be death. Since God is not a man that He should lie, sin entered by the one man, Adam, and death passed upon all men, because when Adam sinned all sinned in him. Likewise, we were all born sinners and therefore commit sins and God has declared that the soul that sins shall die. (Ezek 18:4) The life of man is in the blood. (Deut 12:23) Therefore, one’s lifeblood is required by God in consequence of sin. However, God in His mercy, foreseeing the cross, provided blood sacrifices of innocent animals in order to cover man’s sins until the spotless Lamb of God came to take away the sins of the world once and for all. (Jn 1:29) However, without the shedding of blood God cannot be just and at the same time remit sins. (Heb 9:22)
The blood wasn’t presented as payment to the devil as some Church Fathers believed. While Satan’s legal rights against us were cancelled at the cross, the redemptive blood had to be presented to God on the propitiatory (KJV “mercy seat”) in the heavenly Holy of Holies. The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus Christ our High Priest: “with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb 9:12) In the earthly tabernacle, which is a pattern of the heavenly, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place once a year presenting the blood of the sacrificial lamb before the Lord upon the mercy seat or propitiatory for the sins of the people. This offering propitiated God or satisfied Him until the following year. This was merely a type or shadow of the once and for all sacrifice of Christ our Redeemer. After describing the expiatory sacrifice which was offered once a year on the day of atonement, the author of Hebrews applies it to Christ saying:
“how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:14,15)
This was also typified in the application of the blood of the Passover lamb. It was when God saw the blood that His judgment passed over them and the angel of death was not permitted to take their lives. (Ex 12:13) Also, all sacrifices for sins were presented before the Lord. (Lev 4:4-7) Actually, the entire Old Testament Scriptures were pregnant with types and shadows of the Lamb of God who would come and shed His blood, redeeming us unto Himself by grace. This is why Jesus said to the Pharisees: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39) In spite of all their knowledge of Scripture, they thought that eternal life was to be obtained by obedience to the Law. However, the Law was given in order to put all under disobedience that God might afterwards have mercy on all. (Rom 11:32) It was given to bring us to Christ, the Lamb of God who would once and for all take away our sins and begin a new creation through His resurrection life.
Paul said that, in spite of the fact that he didn’t handle the Word of God deceitfully as some, the gospel was veiled to those who are perishing. He said that the god of this age has blinded them to the glorious gospel. (2Cor 4:1-4) That was the case with the Pharisees, and it is also the case with many in our Postmodern society. Religious Progressives typically deny and even mock the truth that the expiatory sacrifice of Christ our Kinsman Redeemer was necessary in order to redeem us from our sins so that God could justly forgive and justify us. Brian Zahnd is representative of this school of thought when he says:
“Penal substitutionary atonement insists that God cannot just forgive. What do you mean He can’t just forgive? Of course He can, because God is not subordinate to justice.” 
However, we see in Scripture that the justice of God requires a blood ransom in substitution for sin in order for God to be able to justly forgive us for our sins. Jesus, before going to the cross said: “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt 26:28) “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph 1:7) How are we forgiven before God? Through the shed blood of Christ, the substitutionary Lamb who redeemed us by His blood, enabling God to justly forgive us our sins.
I personally fear for those who reduce Christ’s expiatory death upon the cross, presenting it as nothing more than an example of cruciform love for us to emulate. The Holy Spirit prophesied concerning this through Peter when he said:
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who BOUGHT them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” (2Peter 2:1)
As the hour drew near when Jesus was to be offered up (Heb 7:27) He cried out to the Father saying: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:27) Why was He troubled? Was it because He knew He would be beaten and scourged? No. The sinless Son of God knew that the Father was about to lay upon Him all the sins of the world so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2Cor 5:21) He had come in the form of man in order to give His lifeblood a ransom for all. (Matt 20:28; 1Tim 2:6)
For us to say that God simply permitted wicked men to kill Him so we can know His cruciform love is tantamount to denying the Lord “who bought us” and gave His life “a ransom for all.” While it is true that the cross is by far the greatest demonstration of the Love of God, it is such, not simply because He absorbed “the collective sin of humanity” into Himself, saying “Father forgive them,” but rather that He gave His life a ransom for sin because without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin.
A Denial of the Validity of the Old Testament Sacrificial System is a Denial of our Lord who bought us
The entirety of the Old Testament sacrificial system was divinely instituted for the sole purpose of pointing to Jesus Christ our Passover; the Lamb without blemish and without spot having been slain from the foundation of the world; the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Old and New Testaments are so intertwined with this redemptive theme that to deny the validity of the Old Testament sacrificial system is to also deny the validity of the New Testament testimony concerning Christ our Redeemer.
Postmodern Progressives, in order to deny Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement, must first discredit the validity of the sacrificial system. They say that the sacrificial system was the invention of the primitive Near Eastern mindset of Moses. In order to do this, they must first deny the inerrancy of the Scriptures, since the Scriptures present God as being the one who instituted blood sacrifices.
However, they are subtle and clandestine rather than forthright in their denial of the authority of the Scriptures, and in this manner, they have managed to pull the wool over the eyes of many unwary sheep. They often emphasize that they hold a very high view of Scripture, even referring to it as the inspired word of God while at the same time maintaining that it contains many errors and myths. This is what was meant by Peter when he said that they will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who BOUGHT them. (2Peter 2:1) Their philosophical arguments are so ingeniously devised that they sow doubts without outright saying that they deny what they very obviously do deny when one takes the time to read in detail their often voluminous argumentations. Their writings are so complex, evasive and elusive that most who write reviews concerning their works must speculate concerning what these authors are actually saying. These are those of whom Paul warned when he said:
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col 2:8)
The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who perish, but to us who believe it is the wisdom of God and the power of God. (1Cor 1:18-21) The truth as it is in Jesus is so simple that the unlettered indigenous tribes here in the Colombian jungle understand it and are impacted by it, yet it is so profound that we can never fathom its depths.
An all-too-common error of many who come to see that God’s plan culminates in the final restoration of all, is that they fail to discern that not all who believe in universal salvation are biblically sound in their doctrines. Since the Bible so clearly teaches that Christ will succeed in His mission to seek and save the lost until the last lost sheep is safe in the fold, even the most Liberal teachers use many of the same passages of Scripture and biblical argumentation as the Conservative scholars do, demonstrating that God’s plan is to save all. However, since they deny the inerrancy of Scripture, Progressives ignore many portions of Scripture and twist the meaning of others in order to accommodate the Scriptures to today’s culture or their own personal sensibilities. Only a truly high view of Scripture can save us from becoming lost in a sea of subjectivity.
In like manner, many who received a revelation of the grace of God fell into this same pitfall. The grace movement started upon a rediscovery of grace from the Scriptures and rediscovering the reality of Christ as our life. But many, failing to use discernment have been led into doctrines which go too far and do not abide in the doctrine of Christ. (2John 9) Jude warned of false grace teachers who depart from the Scriptures and subtly convert the grace of God into sinful excess. He said:
“I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)
Much of that which today passes for grace teaching has gone too far and bears little resemblance to the Bible based grace teaching of men like Andrew Wommack, Joseph Prince and even that which Steve McVey at first presented in his book “Grace-Walk.” In my book “The True Grace of God” I defend the doctrine of grace against its naysayers, but at the same time I make a call for those in the Grace Movement to abide in the doctrine of Christ – to remain in the truth as it is in Jesus. (Eph 4:20-23)
In like manner, in my book “The Ways of God” I seek to sound a warning against what I see as a prevalent but serious deviation from the biblical metanarrative among Universalists which, if not corrected, could derail the present restoration of Universalism, resulting to a repeat of the demise of Universalism during the last century through the incursion of Unitarian Liberalism. In “The Ways of God” I present an apologetic of the ways of God as revealed in the biblical record, showing that God’s ways can be seen to be just and loving, culminating in the final restoration of all, without compromising the authority of the Scriptures. I believe that if we want to see the grace movement and the restoration of Universal Restorationism stay on course we must have a renewed commitment to stand firmly upon the Scriptures. I am convinced that God can be seen to be good all the time, even in His most severe judgments.
 When they speak of the love of God as “cruciform” they mean to say that His love is always like Christ on the cross, passively absorbing our sins into Himself, without acting in judgment against them. Nevertheless, many who use this term believe that Christ personally came to destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD. for rejecting Him.
 Monster God Atonement Debate, Michael Brown vs. Brian Zahn, 28:30 min.