“Atonement” is not a New Testament
doctrine, but one that occurs very regularly in the Old Testament.
The explanation of this word as meaning “at-one-ment”, i.e. the
state of being at one, seems a bit fanciful. It really means to
“cover,” to “offer,” or “receive a sin offering,” hence, make
atonement, appease, and propitiate (Strongs, 3722). In the New
Testament the word does not occur although the KJV translation has
it in Rom 5:11, but the word
should have been used. Reconciliation is the result of
atonement, and is one of the very many blessings the believer enters
into as a result of the atoning work of Christ.
The work of atonement is the
offering of Christ upon the cross as a sacrifice. There are two
aspects to this work of atonement, namely maintaining the glory of
God, and secondly, perfectly satisfying man’s deepest need and
dealing with all his guilt.
This world we live in does not
honour God. His truth has been despised, His majesty is ignored, His
law broken, His claims disregarded, and His Name blasphemed. Now the
death of Christ has made provision for this situation. It has
perfectly glorified God in the very place where all these things
have been done. It has met all His claims against us. It has atoned
for sin. It is on that basis
that God can act in grace and mercy toward all. How else could
mercy and truth meet together?
(Psa 85:10). The cross of Christ glorifies God and leaves man
wholly without excuse. God
has provided atonement in Christ, and as a result of this offering
believing sinners are able to enter into the presence of God.
Atonement is God’s gift to man.
Lev 17:11 says,
“It is the blood that makes an
atonement for the soul”. The shed blood of Christ is the
foundation of everything in the Christian faith. It is the basis of
God’s righteousness in justifying the ungodly sinner that believes
on the name of the Son of God, and the sinner’s confidence in
drawing near to a holy God who is of purer eyes than to behold evil.
God would be just in the condemnation of the sinner, but through the
death of Christ He can be just and the
justifier of him that believeth (Rom 3:26). A holy God
justifies an ungodly sinner through the latter’s faith in the shed
blood of Jesus Christ – nothing less, nothing more, nothing
different. Christ's atonement makes a change, not in God's
character, but in our position with regards to divine law.
of Atonement” (Yom Kippur)
was the holiest feast day of Israel’s year. It was associated
with affliction of the soul, with abstinence from work, and
confession of sin. It was celebrated on the 10th day of
the 7th month (probably October) (Lev
23:27-32) and kept by the
people as a high solemn Sabbath. On this annual occasion only, the
high priest was permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies. Having
bathed and dressed entirely in the holy linen garments, he brought
forward a young bullock for a Sin Offering to make atonement for
himself and his family, and a ram for a Burnt Offering. Similarly he
took two young goats for a Sin Offering, with a ram for a Burnt
Offering, on account of the people (Lev
He then presented the two goats
which were for a Sin Offering for the people before the Lord at the
door of the Tabernacle and cast lots upon them. One lot, was
for the Lord,
and on the other lot was called the
scapegoat. (Lev 16:8)
After various sacrifices and
ceremonies, the goat which was
lot for the Lord
was slain and offered as a sin offering. The high priest
sprinkled its blood before the Mercy-Seat in the same manner as he
had done that of the bullock. Going out from the Holy of Holies, he
purified the Holy Place, sprinkling some of the blood of both the
victims on the Altar of Incense.
The purification of the Holy of
Holies and of the Holy Place being thus completed, the high priest
laid his hands upon the head of the goat on which the lot
called the scapegoat
had fallen and confessed over it all the sins of the people.
The goat was then led, by a man
chosen for the purpose, into the wilderness, and there let loose.
The high priest after this, returned into the Holy Place, bathed
himself again, put on his usual garments of office, and offered the
two rams as Burnt Offerings, one for himself and one for the people,
and thus made atonement for himself and for the people. This was
indeed a special day.