|At Issue Index Table of Contents Previous Next|
VII. Questions on Christ and His Ministry in the Sanctuary
The answer to this question depends upon the definition given to the term
"atonement." The word occurs in the New Testament only once (Rom.
5:11), where it is the translation of katallage, a word meaning
"reconciliation," or a "reconciling," and is elsewhere so
translated (Rom. 11:15; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19). The related verb katallasso occurs
six times, and in each case is translated "to reconcile" (Rom. 5:10;
1 Cor. 7:11; 2 Cor. 5:18-20). Katallage should be rendered
"reconciliation" in Romans 5:11 also.
that the basic meaning of "atonement" as the term is used in the Old Testament is to cover sin. From this come the derived meanings "to make amends," "to make matters right," "to expiate," "to make atonement."
In theological circles the term "atonement" has assumed a technical
meaning and is generally used to describe the redeeming effect of Christ's
incarnation, sufferings, and death. Christians are not all agreed as to what was
accomplished by these events in the life of Christ, and consequently hold
various theories of the atonement.
sacrifice for sin. They believe that nothing less than—this took place on the cross of Calvary.
They believe, however, that in the ancient typical sanctuary service other
aspects of the atonement are brought to light. In the morning and evening
sacrifice they see sacrificial atonement provided for all men (Ex. 29:38-42).
In the sinner's own personal offering they see sacrificial atonement
appropriated by the individual (Lev. 4:31). Then came the grand climax on the
Day of Atonement—day of judgment—when sin was definitely and finally dealt
with. These ancient services, they believe, were all typical of the work of
Christ. The morning and evening sacrifices and the individual offerings for sin
pointed forward to the Saviour's sacrifice on Calvary's cross. The ministry of
the priest in these services pointed forward to the high priestly ministry of
Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, where He applies the benefits of the atoning
sacrifice to the individual sinner. Then the Day of Atonement services, they
believe, pointed forward to the work to be accomplished in what they call the
Investigative judgment which eventually culminates in the final obliteration of
iniquity at the close of the millennial period.
Under direction of Aaron they made a golden calf, reminiscent of their stay for
so many years in the land of Egypt. When Moses descended from the mount, he was
greatly disturbed over the apostasy of the people, and it was in this crisis
that the tribe of Levi stood by his side. Then he declared to Israel, "Ye
have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I
shall make an atonement for your sin" (Ex. 32:30).
wrong that had been done. This aspect is also embodied in the great sweep of Christ's atoning work. This is emphasized in the following words:
3. Still another incident recorded in Numbers 16 well illustrates a further aspect of the atonement. Israel had grievously provoked the Lord. The people had murmured against God; 250 of the princes, men of renown, had rebelled against the Most High. Resulting from this apostasy a plague broke out in the camp of Israel. In connection with this we have the divine declaration:
Here we see Aaron as a mediator, a fitting type of Christ Jesus, our blessed Lord. In thus stepping in between man and God, and by
his sacrificial abnegation and devotion, standing between the living and the
dead, covering the people from the wrath of God, he thereby made an atonement
In this instance we see that this loyal priest made an atonement by removing the incorrigible offenders. The people of Israel were taught this aspect of God's plan in the sanctuary service as the Day of Atonement came around each year. The final act on that great day was the removal of the goat for Azazel, representing the instigator of evil. This goat was taken from the camp of Israel and banished forever. So it will be in the closing work of God. Then the last act in God's great plan of cleansing the universe from sin will be to
remove the greatest offender of all, he who was a liar from the beginning, that old enemy, the devil and Satan. These four experiences teach us vital and important lessons concerning the work of the atonement. In God's eternal purpose, He who makes the atonement is the Mediator. Everything in the typical service—the sacrifices and the work of the priesthood—pointed forward to Christ Jesus, our Lord. He took our place and died in our stead. In doing this, He became our substitute. In dying on the cross, in yielding His life an atonement for sin, He made adequate compensation for the wrong done; He met in full the penalty of the broken law of God.
But the work accomplished on Calvary involves also the application of the
atoning sacrifice of Christ to the seeking soul. This is provided for in the
priestly ministry of our blessed Lord, our great High Priest in the sanctuary
Some of our earlier Seventh-day Adventist writers, believing that the word
"atonement" had a wider meaning than many of their fellow Christians attached to it, expressed
themselves as indicating that the atonement was not made on the cross of
Calvary, but was made rather by Christ after He entered upon His priestly
ministry in heaven. They believed fully in the efficacy of the sacrifice of
Christ for the salvation of men, and they believed most assuredly that this
sacrifice was made once for all and forever, but they preferred not to use the
word "atonement" as relating only to the sacrificial work of Christ
at Calvary. We repeat, they believed as fully as we do that the sacrificial
work of our blessed Lord on Golgotha's hill was full and complete, never again
to be offered, and that it was done once and for all. Their concept was that
the sacrifice of Jesus provided the means of the atonement, and that the
atonement itself was made only when the priests ministered the sacrificial
offering on behalf of the sinner. Viewed in this light, it will be seen that
the question after all is a matter of definition of terms. Today, not meeting
the same issues that our earlier writers had to meet, we believe that the
sacrificial atonement was made on the cross and was provided for all men, but
that in the heavenly priestly ministry of Christ our Lord, this sacrificial
atonement is applied to the seeking soul.
|At Issue Index Table of Contents Previous Next|