Thread: Atonement and OT Sacrifice
February 22nd 2012, 11:02 PM #1
Atonement and OT Sacrifice
In preparation for a Sunday School class, I've been thinking again about the atonement. The key passages in the Gospels seem to be the words of Institution, and Mark 10:45. These refer to Is 53, Jer 31:31, and the OT sacrificial system in general.
Jesus seems to have understood his sacrifice as the sacrifice that is normally associated with a covenant, to establish the new covenant of Jer 31:31, but also as a sacrifice of atonement for Israel's sin.
This brings up the question of how sacrifices work in Jewish thought. While someone who makes a sacrifice merits punishment, it's hard to see the primary action of a sacrifice as being the victim suffering punishment for the offender. First, a grain offering can be used (Lev 5:11). Presumably the grain isn't being punished. Second, sacrifices are used for situations other than sin, such as establishing a covenant. The only sense I can make is that the point of a sacrifice is to show the seriousness of commitment – commitment to a covenant when the sacrifice is for establishing a covenant, or commitment to repentance when it's for sin.
This suggests that Jesus has in mind (at least) two meanings for his death: (1) Most explicitly, it is the sacrifice for establishing the covenant of Jer 31:31; (2) It is an offering for Israel's sins. He was trying to show repentance on behalf of his people, and presumably move them to accept this repentance as their own.
I don't see in the Gospels, or in the OT background, direct penal substitution, although suffering death for us when we owe death is surely very close. There are passages in Paul that can be understood as penal substitution, though I'm not clear whether that implication is unambiguous.
February 23rd 2012, 02:52 AM #2
Re: Atonement and OT Sacrifice
According to Jewish tradition (and I mean not Christian), the sacrificial system actually accomplished 3 things:
1. Giving: sacrifice required the renunciation of something belonging to the person (this is why domestic and not wild animals are used) (this is also why food also involved something like flour or meal, as both of these took a substantial time to prepare)
2. Substitution: the idea that what is being done to the sacrifice, should have been done to the one who makes the offering. In other words, the sacrifice is a substitution for the one making the offering; the sacrifice is punished in place of the offerer.
3. Coming closer to God: the nature of sacrifice brings a person closer to God.
Remember, this it is according to Jewish thought, that this is what the sacrificial system (Qorbanot) accomplished. Of course, the sacrifice of Jesus accomplishes all three of these, with God, of course, providing the sacrifice. It is interesting to note that sacrifices were made from spotless animals, and the first fruits. As such, Jesus is the first-born, or pre-eminent one of creation.
However, as a side note, we should also remember that not all Jewish sacrifices are the same...in other words, they are not all meant for the same purpose. You have the burnt offering (submission to God's will), sin offering (atonement of sin), food offering (devotion of man's works), guilt offering (atonement of unknown or questionable sin), peace offering (express thanks), and lastly the red heifer.
Interestingly enough, even Jews today see the Red Heifer sacrifice as something that will be performed by Messiah when He comes. It is a sacrifice that makes the impure pure, and the pure impure (those who participate are considered impure for a time). Furthermore, this sacrifice was performed outside the camp. Of course, as Christians we should understand the symbolic nature of this sacrifice and how it clearly represents Jesus (as He in essence took on the sins of the world, and was crucified outside of Jerusalem). You can see the allusion to Christ in Hebrews 9:
13 For if (AD)the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with (AE)the ashes of a heifer, sanctify[f] for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will (AF)the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit (AG)offered himself without blemish to God, (AH)purify our[g] conscience (AI)from dead works (AJ)to serve the living God
But one thing is for sure:
20 saying, (AS)“This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both (AT)the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and (AU)without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
So what's the point for Christians? That the sacrificial system points to Jesus, and He is the one who actually fulfills each one...perfectly.
I hope this helps.
Last edited by Phat8594; February 23rd 2012 at 03:15 AM.
February 25th 2012, 02:11 PM #3
Re: Atonement and OT Sacrifice
February 29th 2012, 01:12 PM #4
Re: Atonement and OT Sacrifice
Hebrews 9:21 NASB
And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood.
Acts 8:34 NASB
The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?"
Galatians 3:1 NASB
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
Christ's death was a fulfillment of a covenant requirement. But what was the requirement and what was achieved by that fulfilment?
In the first place, the idea that a Jew had to observe all the 613 precepts is wrong. Some are requirements for women, some for priests. Cleansing the tabernacle elements was one of the latter.
Jesus, the High Priest of a superior covenant, cleansed the elements present in the heavenly tabernacle, of which the earthly one is only a copy.
What are these elements in the heavenly tabernacle?
Ephesians 2:4-7 NASB
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
The Kingdom of God is the blessings of Deuteronomy, achieved by the faithfulness of the people AND the High Priest.
Joshua as administrator of the covenant never led the people into the Sabbath rest, rest from one'sown work.
Jesus , the mediator of the new superior covenant, did.
In short, the entire contents of Leviticus are in principle related to the tabernacle and to the obligations of purity that derive from it. Leviticus sums up the matter in the words, "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev. 19:2; cf. 1 Pet. 1:16). The people could not survive alongside the tabernacle unless they respected the holiness of God and maintained holiness among themselves. Or, to put it another way, now that the people themselves had in some sense become a dwelling place of God through the erection and consecration of the tabernacle, they had to maintain practices exhibiting the principles of God's dwellying. Such principles are all fulfilled in Christ as the final dwelling place of God.
And even John agrees:
1 John 1:7 NASB
but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
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