Atonement is the work Jesus accomplished through His death on our behalf. The word is made up of three sections: "at," "one," "ment." Atonement is at-one-ment. It restores the sinner to God's favor. It's reconciliation.
It’s good to be with you again. The particular theme that I’m dealing with this week is “Victory over Death.”
Yesterday I painted the picture of Jesus, our kinsman-redeemer. I pointed out that in the Old Testament a kinsman-redeemer had two main responsibilities: first, to avenge a near kinsman if murdered; second, to marry the widow of a near kinsman if dead and thus keep the inheritance within the family. Jesus fulfilled both of these responsibilities. First, He avenged us on the murderer, Satan; second, He took the church as His bride and thus restored to us our God-given inheritance.
Today I’m going to speak about the atonement, the work that Jesus accomplished through His death on our behalf. Really, in a sense, the entire revelation of Scripture centers around the atonement. Atonement, itself, is beautiful. Many people who use it don’t actually know what it really means. The word “atonement” is made up of three sections: “at,” a-t; “one,” o-n-e; and then the end “ment,” m-e-n-t. Atonement is at-one-ment. Atonement restores the sinner to God’s favor. It’s reconciliation. It’s bringing God and the sinner, who have been alienated, at one. At-one-ment. It’s total reconciliation. It’s union.
One of the vivid pictures that has come to me to illustrate the place of the atonement in the total message of the gospel is that of a wheel. In a wheel, simplistically, there are three sections: the outer circle, the spokes and the hub. In this picture, the outer circle represents God’s complete provision for every area of our lives; spiritual physical, financial, for time and through eternity. The total provision of God through the gospel is like that full-orbed circle of the wheel. It covers everything. The spokes that support the outer wheel are the ways that God make provision. For instance, forgiveness, that gives us peace; healing, that gives us health; deliverance, that gives us liberty; sanctification, that gives us holiness. So, the spokes support the outer rim which is God’s provision. But the hub, the very center, is the atonement. The spokes rest upon the hub. Without the hub they have nothing to support them. Also, through the hub there comes the driving power that turns the wheel.
In God’s provision the atonement is the hub. It’s the center. It’s that on which everything else depends, that through which the power for the Christian life is supplied.
Look at what is written in Hebrews 2:9:
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (NIV)
Notice that last phrase: “by the grace of God [Jesus] taste[d] death for everyone.” He tasted our death. He took our place. That which was due to us came upon Him. This is stated again in Isaiah 53:6:
“All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” (NAS)
That’s Jesus. The word that’s translated “iniquity” has also the meaning of rebellion. The rebellion of the whole human race is summed up in that phrase. Each of us has turned to his own way. We’ve turned our backs on God and we’ve gone our own way. We’ve done our own thing. We’ve set our own standards, pleased ourselves, lived for ourselves. We’ve been rebellious. But the Lord made to meet together upon Jesus the rebellion of us all. As He hung there on the cross all our rebellion was focused in Him. And then, upon Him as He hung there, there came all the evil consequences of rebellion: sickness, rejection, pain, agony, and finally death. But He did not die for Himself. He died our death. He tasted death in our place. He was our kinsman-redeemer.
In the verses that follow Isaiah 53:6, we have a vivid and detailed description of the suffering of Jesus through prophetic inspiration and written more than seven hundred years before it took place. Reading verses 7 through 9:
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, Yet with a rich man in His death; Although He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” (NAS)
Let’s look at some of the details which were so accurately fulfilled in the sufferings and the death of Jesus. First of all, “He did not open His mouth.” It’s emphasized several times in the gospel that He made no attempt to answer His accusers or justify Himself or plead His own cause. “He did not open His mouth.”
Then, “By oppression and judgment He was taken away.” Unjust accusation and unfair trial led to His death.
Then again, “He was cut off out of the land of the living.” His accusation and trial led to His death.
And then the details of His burial are so amazingly accurate. “His grave was assigned to be with wicked men, Yet with a rich man in His death.” We move from the plural “with wicked men,” to the singular “with a rich man.” Historically, we find that Jesus was taken down for burial with the two thieves, the two wicked men who were hung on either side of Him, but then He was buried in the tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimethea. See how amazingly accurate that prediction was?
And then it’s emphasized again it was not for His own sin or guilt. “He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” He was totally innocent, and yet He died the death of a criminal.
And then, in the verses that follow, Isaiah 53:10-12, the purpose of God is fulfilled in the death of Jesus. We read these verses:
“But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.” (NAS)
Again we look at the amazing accuracy of those details. Verse 10, the great reason for the death of Jesus is stated, “He rendered Himself as a guilt offering.” He became the guilt offering, the sin offering, for the entire human race.
And then in the words that follow in verse 10 we see that His resurrection is there predicted, “He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days... the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” Already it has been stated that He was to be cut off out of the land of the living and yet now it is stated that He will see His offspring, prolong His days. That can only be through resurrection.
Then in the latter half of verse 11 it says, “By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many... He will bear their iniquities.” Because Jesus bore our iniquities and took the penalty of our rebellion, therefore now He is able to offer us His righteousness, He’s able to justify us.
And then in the 12th verse we read that “He poured out Himself to death.” But where this translation says “Himself,” the Hebrew says “His soul.” Compare that with the statement in Leviticus 17:11:
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (NAS)
Now, where this translation says “life,” the Hebrew word is “soul”: “the [soul] of the flesh is in the blood.” So, when Jesus poured out His last drop of blood on the cross, He poured out His soul, He yielded up His soul as the atonement, the sin offering. He died our death. He became our sin offering. Brought back from the dead, He is able to impart to us His righteousness. He will see His offspring. We, who through faith in Him, come to God and are born anew, become His offspring. He will prolong His days forever and ever. He’s raised again to eternal life. The pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hands. He becomes the instrument to fulfill all God’s purposes in the earth.
Especially meditate on that statement that He poured out His soul unto death. He poured out His blood. I don’t know if you’ve ever realized that when the blood of Jesus was shed on the cross, the entire life of Almighty God was given forth for the redemption of this world. There is more power in one drop of the blood of Jesus than in all the forces of sin and iniquity in this whole world. And when Jesus gave up Himself on the cross, when He poured out His soul, when He shed His blood, He made available to us the entire riches, resources of the eternal and endless life of God. And when He rose from the dead, He came to offer us peace and total pardon. This is how He defeated our enemy and restored us to our inheritance, our kinsman-redeemer.
Well, our time is up for today, but I’ll be back with you again tomorrow at this time. Tomorrow, I’ll begin to deal with the greatest event of all history up to this moment, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.