1.1 The plan and purpose of the atonement
The plan of atonement is sprinkled throughout the Bible. Most doctrines are like a thread in which you can pull from Genesis to Revelations. The plan of the atonement is initiated by God, exemplified throughout the Bible and Praised in Revelations, (Revelations 5:12). It can be seen from the fall of mankind when God clothed Adam and Eve after they had sinned with innocent animals. This was a sacrifice for their sin and a covering for their nakedness. This is where the atonement or covering is first mentioned. The shedding of blood is confirmed in the New Testament, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22 KJV). This sacrifice made an atonement for their sin but was not the sacrifice that would appease God’s wrath for all sin. There was a long term plan God was setting up.
God revealed His Plan in the first Messianic Prophecy in Genesis 3:15 when He told Eve and Satan, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 KJV). God had a plan not only to atone for but also to reconcile His creation back to Himself. There is a typology in the Passover (Exodus 12:1-14). The lamb, which had to be perfect and without blemish, was sacrificed and the blood was placed over the door and on the side posts of the door. The blood was a token between God and the Hebrews, and when God saw the blood He would pass over their houses. The sacrifice and the blood were an atonement and a covering for the wages of sin which is death. Anyone without the atoning blood of an innocent lamb would experience death. God’s plan would be exemplified in the Old Testament e.g. Abraham and Isaac, (Genesis 22). His plan was prophesized as a new covenant by a sacrifice (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Isaiah 53). God was also going to give them a new heart in which he was going to write His laws upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26-28; Psalms 119:11). Ephesians
Finally, God’s plan was introduced in Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 KJV). This child would be the Lamb of God and would be blameless and without spot even born of a virgin as not to have the sin nature passed down from the seed of fallen man, (Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:26-31). God’s plan is introduced in the New Testament (Luke 1:26-31, Matthew 1:18-25). God’s plan was revealed in John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God came down in the likeness of mankind to life among us so He could be the propitiation for all mankind’s sins past, present and future. Only an eternal, holy sacrifice (like the Passover lamb without spot or blemish) could have provided the atoning reconciliation and redemption of mankind that would appease God’s wrath for the wages of sin. Jesus came to live a holy life to fulfill God’s plan of atonement and reconcile all those who believe back to Himself, (Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 2:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
The purpose of the atonement is multifaceted. First it exhibits God’s attribute of love, grace, mercy, and righteousness. It ultimately glorifies the creator Who deserved all honor, praise and glory. The purpose of the atonement is to appease: God’s wrath against sin, the penalty against sin, to break the bondage of sin, and to reconcile His creation so they may live in right relationship with Him for ever more.
There was no other way to appease God’s wrath against sin than to have a perfect sacrifice for it. He gave Jesus Christ His only begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins, (1 John 4:10). The best definition I have found for propitiation is, the only sacrifice that would appease God’s wrath for all mankind’s sin past, present, and future. Jesus Christ came to appease God’s wrath for all mankind for eternity past, present, and future. He is the only one that can appease God’s wrath from eternity past to eternity future because He is an eternal being, He is God.
The atonement is for the penalty of sin. The wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23a). There has to be a death for the penalty of sin demands it. There is only one perfect sacrifice for the penalty of all mankind’s sin Jesus Christ our Saviour. Hebrews 9:26 says that he appeared once for all to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself and in Chapter 10 verse 12 God’s word says He had offered one sacrifice for ever, this is an eternal sacrifice that satisfies the penalty of sin.
The atonement breaks the bondage of sin. When Adam and Eve first sinned, they were under the bondage of sin for whosoever you yield yourself to obey his servant you are to whom you obey, (Romans 6:16). Man had yielded to Satan and placed themselves under the dominion of Satan’s kingdom. Mankind can only be brought back into the Kingdom of God buy a redeemer. Jesus Christ gave Himself as a ransom for many and has bought mankind back with a price, (Mark 10:45; 1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23). Only by the blood of Christ, our Holy sacrifice, can we be bought back forever for He has obtained for us eternal redemption, (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus tells us that we will still have tribulations is this world, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. Now that is good news. We no longer are bond by our sinful nature we have been enlightened to live the rest of our time after the will of God and not to the lusts of the flesh, (1 Peter 4:2).
The atonement also reconciles us back to God so we can live in peace with Him and can live a lifestyle well pleasing to God. Christ our Saviour has reconciled us back to God viz., He has made peace with God the Father on our behalf. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: … For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 KJV). There is now no separation between believers and God, Christ has bridged the Gap and we can come before His throne of grace boldly.