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Bible verses about Atonement
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:7-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Adam and Eve knew that they were naked. A change in their thinking—in their perspective, in the way they looked at things—occurred. As long as they were united to God (before they sinned), as long as they were at one with Him, they looked at God, at things, and at the processes of life in a way that was not offensive to Him. Yet, as soon as they sinned, their minds changed. Their formerly innocent and pure perspective changed; they began to see evil in things. They felt shame in their nakedness. In addition, "Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden" (verse 8).

This encapsulates the effect of sin. It separates from God. Adam and Eve wanted to hide themselves from Him. Their perspective on life had changed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Leviticus 1:3-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God accepts the animal in place of the offerer. The offerer remains alive, and the animal represents him giving or sacrificing himself. In this respect, Christ becomes even more prominent, and we fade into the background, though not entirely.

Every man's acceptance before God depends upon perfect righteousness. An animal cannot sin, so in the imagery sinlessness is symbolically present. However, the sinlessness required for our acceptance goes well beyond this. Paul writes in Romans 3:10, 23: "There is none righteous, no not one; . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Jesus, though, born of a woman (Galatians 4:4), took on flesh and blood as the seed of Abraham (John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14) and lived a perfect life (I Peter 2:22). His sinless life was acceptable to God, and by God's grace, we are accepted because of Christ. Thus, the offering must be without blemish; it must match Christ's sinlessness.

This also helps to explain the word "atonement" in Leviticus 1:4. Normally, we think of it in the sense of a "covering for sin." However, since sin is not contemplated in this offering, this understanding is incorrect here. In this case, atonement indicates "making satisfaction." God is satisfied because a requirement is met, not that His offended justice is satisfied.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering


 

Leviticus 4:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Clearly, in the sin offering described here, atonement is used in the sense of "a covering," and therefore as a means of forgiving sin. By contrast, in the burnt offering sin is nowhere seen because it is not part of what the burnt offering teaches. In it, God is satisfied because the offerer has met His requirement through his life, by the righteous way he lives his life. Thus, the offering shows the offerer accepted.

However, not all sense of covering is lost in the use of "atonement" in Leviticus 1. Here, the essence of covering arises in the fact that the offering covers—is fitting or appropriate—in the sense of meeting all conditions. The conditions involve a life of sincere, wholehearted, and loyal devotion to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering


 

Leviticus 4:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The English word atonement appears in Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35 in reference to these sin offerings, as it does in Leviticus 1:4 in reference to the burnt offering: "Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him." This is the last time "atonement" appears in reference to the sweet-savor offerings in Leviticus 1-3.

"Atonement" may mislead some because we almost automatically think of a covering for sin. Atonement for sin normally makes one acceptable before God, but sin is not present in the sweet-savor offerings. Nonetheless, the word indeed conveys the sense of acceptance but on a different basis than in the sin and trespass offerings. The basis for acceptance in the sweet-savor offerings is the offerer's perfect devotion, picturing the devoted, sinless Christ worshipping God.

Concerning the sin and trespass offerings, "atonement" is used in the way we normally understand it: as a covering, payment, expiation, or propitiation made for sin. It is as though the offerer is charged just as the police charge a person with a crime. In this case, though, the offerer is charged with sin, and something must expiate it. The sin and trespass offerings, then, indicate the payment of a legal obligation to an authority, one that meets the legal requirement of that authority. To expiate sin, the payment must be in blood; a life must be given. The Authority is God, as His law has been broken.

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Whenever a person sins, the law has the power to take that person's life. It has such power over us that, for our debt to be paid, a life is required. Nothing less is suitable to expiate sin. In the symbolism of the sin and trespass offerings, the life of an animal is given, covering the indebtedness and breaking the power the law has over us.

In actual practice, the ritual proceeded like this: The offerer brought his animal before the priest and then laid his hand upon the head of his offering. Symbolically, a transfer took place so that the animal is understood as portraying the sinner making the offering. The animal then died, and the penalty was considered paid.

In Romans 6:2, Paul writes that we are "dead to sin," and in Romans 7:4, that we are "dead to the law." The ritual portrays these truths. The sin and trespass offerings picture a convicted sinner coming before God to receive the judgment of death. However, the animal's death portrays Christ's vicarious death in our stead, for in reality, since He is the offering, our sins have been transferred to Him. In this way, we are atoned for and redeemed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

Leviticus 16:2-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This lengthy, involved ritual depicts all of the steps that must be accomplished before mankind can truly be at one with God. In short, the following must occur:

  • A high priest must be pure and sinless to mediate between God and man (verse 4). Christ, having lived a sinless life, is our eternal High Priest.
  • The high priest must enter God's presence with blood to open the way between God and man (verses 3, 14-16). Christ, by His own sacrifice, gains us entrance before God's throne, having rent the veil (Matthew 27:51).
  • The sins of men must be covered by the offering of an innocent victim (verses 9, 15). Christ's blood covers our sins, and God grants us forgiveness.
  • The cause of man's sins must be removed (verses 10, 20-22). After Christ returns, Satan—the being who first sinned and has been broadcasting his sinful, rebellious nature to all mankind—will be imprisoned so he cannot deceive men.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Holy Days: Atonement


 

Leviticus 23:26-32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Day of Atonement is a commanded feast of God. God emphasizes this day's solemnity by threatening death to those who fail to afflict their souls or who do any work on this day. Nothing is more important than being at one with Him!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Holy Days: Atonement


 

Isaiah 1:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse says the same thing in more detail as what Peter says in Acts 3:19: "Repent." That is how the breach, the separation, between God and man will be healed. That is how atonement is made. Atonement is not all something that Christ does. There will never be oneness with God until man does something with his free-moral agency.

The problem in Isaiah 1 is a hypocritical people just going through the motions. They were observing the rituals: burning incense, making the sacrifices. Yet, at the same time, their daily lives were filled with all kinds of unlawful acts—business shenanigans—that, according to God's law, is taking advantage of others. They were lying about the weights and balances, selling shoddy products, and as a rule, not conducting business in an upright way. They were murdering one another's reputations through gossip, and lying to one another using charm and deceit. God is saying that their lives were full of hypocrisy.

In the same way, people who today claim to be children of God, who attend Sabbath services and holy days yet have a heart full of greed, covetousness, anger, hatred, bitterness, envy, and so on, are simply hypocrites.

As it pertains to us, what we see in Isaiah is that there must be a relationship between worshipping God and our character in its practical aspect out on the streets, in our homes, in the way that we conduct business. We might say our character away from church, out of the eyesight of God's people, must reflect what we profess to believe. How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, and revenge, do those things through the week and then come to church services before God, thinking that somehow or another they are not separated from Him? Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you have something against your brother, leave your gift at the altar and then first go to your brother and be reconciled, and then come back because the gift will not be accepted." That is quite plain.

Because of all these things, God treated His people Israel in the same way as pagan idols treated their worshippers. Remember, the idols are not alive; they do not have ears that can hear, eyes that can see, or mouths that enable them to speak. So idol worshippers made their lamentations, their prayers, and their praises to their idols, and the idol never responded. God says, "I am going to be just like an idol to you. When you talk to me, I am not going to talk to you, and when you look at me, I am not going to look back at you. I am not going to see you." So in this way, He became as one who is dumb and deaf. He did not respond to their prayers.

It is essential to note that God, in His wisdom, knew before creating mankind that mankind would sin. If there were to be both reconciliation and character building, He would have to provide a means that would not only satisfy the legal requirements, but also contain within it the moral and spiritual influences that would motivate a man to cooperate on his own.

We play a major part in this because God has given us free-moral agency. By and large, the Protestant world has convinced Americans, Canadians, and Western Europeans that Christ did it all for us. It is a bald-faced lie! But sometimes, we who know better act as though it all depended on God. God gave us free-moral agency so that we can respond to Him, put His Word into practice, and exemplify before others what God is like.

It would be nice to say that we live lives like Christ so much that we could say of ourselves what Christ said: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). There is a Person who was really at one with God.

What God is trying to do with the things that He has provided—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit—is to motivate man to repent—to change, to turn to God, to resist the desire to continue in sin—to work at building character and learn to live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 58:13-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is likely that the Sabbath here is either the Feast of Trumpets or the Day of Atonement. The chapter opens up with "Lift up your voice like a trumpet," but then the bulk of the chapter has to do with fasting. The Sabbath arises in verse 13, which indicates that, when Isaiah wrote this, God had a particular Sabbath in mind.

There are only two Sabbaths in which God says, "No work shall be done." The one is the Day of Atonement, and the other is the weekly Sabbath (which occurs fifty-two times a year). In that regard, the weekly Sabbath is more stringent than are the holy days. When holy days and weekly Sabbaths coincide, the holy day takes precedence as being a Sabbath of the first rank. But yet, in regard to the weekly Sabbath, God says, "No work shall be done."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Isaiah 59:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin or iniquity or lawlessness, however we want to read it, is what has caused the need for atonement or reconciliation. Iniquity, sin, and lawlessness produce the opposite of atonement. They produce separation, not coming together. Sin separates and builds barriers between us and God and between us and other people.

He says that He will not hear. We have to understand this. It is not that He cannot hear, but because of sin, He will not hear. God does not sin, so if there is a separation between a man and God—between us and God—then it is because we have done something. We are the ones who are drifting away. However, to the human being, it seems as though God has gone far away, when He has not moved at all.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 59:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is evident from the context that the people had been praying to God and then also complaining that, though they are praying, God is not answering. So Isaiah gives them the real reason why God was not answering: It is not that God is not hearing. He is indeed hearing the people's prayers and their complaints—that is, He is actually hearing the sound. But verses 1-2 make it clear in that God has set His will not to respond.

The reason that Isaiah gives is that there is a separation between the Israelites, the people who are praying, and God. What has caused this separation and made God seem as though He is very far away is their iniquities, their sins. He can hear what they are saying, but sin has caused a separation between them and God.

This is one of the few places in the Old Testament where a separation from God is openly stated. It requires an atoning action to be made if the people are going to be right with God. Something has to be able to bridge the gap that exists.

Even though this is one of the few places where a separation is actually stated, like the ideas of atonement or reconciliation in the New Testament, it is something that is constantly implied. In other words, it is a concept that is always on the edge of what is being written but is rarely openly stated as it is here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Azazel Goat


 

Matthew 27:50-51   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider the general layout of the Tabernacle in the wilderness as well as the Temple in Jerusalem. Both basically were the same. As one approached its front, the first object encountered would be the altar of sacrifice, the brazen alter by which atonement was made. The Hebrew word translated as atonement means "by which we draw near." In other words, by sacrifice, represented by the brazen altar, we draw near to God, seeking Him.

After the brazen altar comes the laver. It could be described as being like a big bathtub. Here a person was to wash himself before proceeding any farther.

Once inside the sanctuary, light came from the candelabra, representing Christ as the Light of the World, as well as the light of God's truth spread from activity of the seven churches.

On the table was the shewbread, representing Christ as the Bread of Life. Directly in front of one who entered the Holy Place, past the table of shewbread, stood the altar of incense, representing the prayers of the saints. Barring one's way into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God, was the veil. Once behind it, a person would be before the Mercy Seat, in the very presence of God.

The veil being torn apart at Christ's death symbolizes that a personal relationship with God can be established. The way had been opened by the sacrificial death of our Savior. This intimate relationship with God is the key to our being transformed from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18).

If we cannot enter God's presence, if we are far away, there is not much hope of transformation. This is why the Bible so frequently urges us to seek God. Seeking God is part of "dressing and keeping" the relationship, helping it to grow. This close relationship is vital to increasing the Holy Spirit in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

John 17:20-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Salvation can easily and accurately be described as "being at one with God." As long as we are separated from God, we do not have salvation. When we are "at one" with God, it means that we are becoming like Him, that we are walking along the same path with Him and will be saved.

Jesus Christ's death bridges this impossible situation for us. We can then begin to contribute to being at one with God. What remains yet undone, despite the gap being bridged, is a change in character and in attitude that must be worked in us in order for us to become like God. It takes living God's way for us to become like God. This is why humility is necessary.

We can see from Jesus' prayer and from our own experience (and from the history of man) that mankind is not at one with God, yet that is God's aim. Satan motivated Adam and Eve, and subsequently all the rest of mankind, to separate themselves from God. As long as Satan can keep us separated from Him, salvation is impossible. Satan's thinking, which was passed on to Adam and Eve and then to us, is that we all have the right to set our own standards or codes of right and wrong. He has convinced mankind that they have the same prerogatives and that these Satan-inspired, man-made standards can produce abundant prosperity, good health, peace, and a sense of well-being in our lives.

But they do not, and that is the problem! Humbling oneself means giving up that devilish notion and submitting to what God says. He has given us free moral agency to choose whether to obey His standards and codes, not the freedom to set our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Acts 27:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Luke, writing this over 30 years after Christ's death, makes it very clear that the early church observed this holy day.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Holy Days: Atonement


 

Romans 5:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Reconciliation with God is not the end of a process, nor does it stand alone. We are reconciled so that we can be saved, and we will be saved because Christ is alive.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

2 Corinthians 4:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Once fellowship with God is established through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, that is not enough. This fellowship must be built upon. For it to continue, it has to be renewed day by day. In other words, sacrificing has to continue. Our relationship with God, then, is not constant because we are not unchanging as God is. Our attitudes fluctuate, our faith increases or decreases, and our love, joy, and peace ebb and flow in their intensity.

Sacrifice, whether it be the sacrifice of Christ or our own personal sacrifice, plays a major role in all of this because these things are not constants within us, so they have to be renewed daily. We can conclude that a sacrifice is then either a means of reconciling or a means of strengthening what already exists—a necessary means of becoming or continuing at-one-ment with God.

We need to add another factor to this. In the Old Testament, the gifts given to God are arranged in the order of their value: An animal is of greater value than a vegetable. Consider Cain and Abel's offering. Abel gave an acceptable one, while Cain gave one that was unacceptable for that circumstance. It might have been acceptable in a different circumstance. Nonetheless, the Bible arranges them in order of priority, as in Leviticus 1-3: A bullock is of greater value than a ram, which is of greater value than a kid or a dove. There is a principle here.

Let us step this up even higher. The offering of a son is of greater value than the offering of any animal. When Abraham offered Isaac, it was far greater in value than the offering of a lamb, ram, or even a bullock. In this case, God would not accept anything less than the very best. It had to be the offering of what was nearest and dearest to Abraham's heart. From this we learn that it is not just the intrinsic value of the gift, but also the relative cost to the giver to which God attaches the greatest importance of all. A widow's two mites can be a greater offering than all of the silver and gold a wealthy man can give.

From this, then, we can extract another principle: The greatest gift of all is self-sacrifice.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest


 

2 Corinthians 5:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If a person truly believes, he will repent, and the consequence is reconciliation with God. Our relationship to Him changes; it is entirely new. Our point of view, our world view, changes. We no longer look at life in the same way. Now we view everything from the perspective of God, His Word, and His Kingdom. We no longer look upon people as we did before.

Before our reconciliation we had a superficial view of Christ. Now we view Him as the Eternal Creator, Lord, Savior, and High Priest who lives in us by His Spirit and with whom we are now in fellowship. This has a tremendous impact on how we conduct our lives.

We understand that God is creating a new race beginning with Christ, the second Adam. A man in Christ is a new creation, not merely improved or reformed, but remade. Reconciliation is not just politely ignoring hostilities. It is the total removal of hostilities so there can be a relationship, a fellowship, between God and man that will produce sanctification leading to holiness and complete and total at-one-ment with the great God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Galatians 4:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul here gives a conclusion to verses 1-6. Before God's calling, we were servants—slaves—to sin and Satan (Romans 3:9; 5:12; 6:1-23; Ephesians 2:1-3). This present system of things, under Satan, was our "tutor" and "governor," not for instruction or safe-keeping but for keeping us controlled and limited. When we were spiritually immature—"children"— we were in bondage to the foundational principles and elements of this world.

At the time when God chooses, He calls us out from this cosmos, this world apart from Him. This is possible because Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice bridges the gap, caused by sin, between God and the man that He chooses and causes to approach Him (Psalm 65:4). Christ became the "curse of the law," the penalty of death, for us and redeemed us from Satan and from sin's grasp so that we could begin to have a relationship with our Creator. Through the legal action of justification, God brings us into alignment with His holy law and takes away our sins and the eternal consequence of them—but He does not take away the law anymore than a civil governor does away with the law against murder when he gives a last-minute reprieve to a murderer.

To those individuals who hear and properly respond to God's summons, He gives the opportunity— the right!— to become His sons: "But as many as received Him, to them gave he power [authority] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12). This is symbolized by adoption, because Paul is emphasizing that prior to this time, we had another father—a supernatural being whose image we bore, whose deeds we followed, and whose words we spoke. It was this father that enslaved us, and it was his system that we all willingly participated in before God's intervention.

It was this system that the Galatians were returning to and which Paul was speaking against (Galatians 4:3, 8-11). Because of the price that Christ paid, God purchased those individuals that He has a plan for, and thus they became His "adopted" sons and heirs—but not yet inheritors—to the promises made to Abraham and to the Kingdom.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 2:12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One cannot be separated from God any further than this verse describes.

The Bible's general approach to man's estrangement from God is that it is a fact without dispute. It assumes that the separation is there and that there is good reason for it. The separation is obvious from Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden. They and all mankind were now separated from the presence of God, so every biblical writer after picked up on this fact and assumed everybody knew that man is separated from God.

Atonement, therefore, is necessary if God and man are ever going to be brought back together. So the New Testament approach to it is that our disobedience to God's will—what we know as sin—has alienated us from Him, and that it must be somehow remedied if a right relationship is to be restored.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Azazel Goat


 

Hebrews 8:11-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The theme of the Day of Atonement is reconciliation, becoming at one with God through the forgiveness of sin. It starts the salvation process off. Each year, on the Day of Atonement, Israel's sins were symbolically transferred to the Tabernacle by having the first goat's blood sprinkled on it. The blood symbolically contained their sins. The blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, transferring their sins, then, to God's throne, where they were forgiven. That is the picture behind this.

So the author says that the Tabernacle, all of its furniture, and all of its ceremonies and rituals used to accomplish atonement (at-one-ment) with God were types. These symbols stood in their place with good purpose, but only until they were replaced with a more effective reality. Christ went into the Holy of Holies with His own blood.

Now we need to put this into a bigger context, the whole book of Hebrews. The overall theme of Hebrews can be described by such words as better, superior, greater. Chapter 1 begins by telling us that Christ is greater than angels. Chapter 2 shows us that the goal given to us in the gospel of the Kingdom of God is so far superior to anything man has ever been offered before that there is no comparison.

In chapter 3, Christ is far greater than Moses. Beginning in chapter 4 and on into chapter 6, the comparison is made with Aaron, and again, Christ is greater. In chapter 7, we find a comparison with the Melchizedek priesthood and the Levitical priesthood. The Melchizedek priesthood is greater, superior, better than Aaron's.

In chapter 8, the covenant is introduced. The New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant. The theme continues right on into chapters 9 and 10, because they are concerned with the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ to the things of the Old Testament - the Tabernacle, its furniture, and all of its ceremonial systems. But they were only imposed for a time, until something better was provided by God. It is clear, then, that God's intent with the sacrificial system was that it would only be imposed temporarily.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 18)


 

James 3:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse shows why the Day of Atonement is needed. It is a day that pictures at-one-ment, the state of being at one. It is needed because men are horribly divided from one another. Some are trying to pull the nations of the earth together as one, but their attempt will fail because it does not originate from God and is not being conducted in a godly manner. It is not being orchestrated by God or His Son, Jesus Christ, and is, instead, being done in a carnal way, which will produce the exact same fruits that all of the other past efforts at unification have produced—division, destruction, and death! In this, we are witnessing a major, worldwide attempt to bring the earth together under one, anti-God system, even as was attempted in Genesis 11.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Revelation 3:15-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Obviously, these people are not meeting the conditions of their relationship with God even though they are His children. Their lackadaisical, wishy-washy, self-righteous attitudes and self-absorbed, self-satisfied lives are totally unacceptable to Him. He casts them from His presence and commands them to change their ways. There is no covering for the conduct of their lives here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering


 

Find more Bible verses about Atonement:
Atonement {Nave's}
 




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