95 Theses on the Atonement

 31 October 2007

Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publicly discussed in Grand Rapids, presided over by brother Ronald Roper, Master of Arts in Theological Studies and erstwhile writer and teacher on these subjects in that place. He requests that those who cannot be present to debate orally with us will do so by e-mail.

 

  1. Atonement (“at-one-ment”) is an old English word meaning “reconciliation”, used with some confusion to translate terms in Hebrew Scripture and the Greek Septuagint that both mean “protective cover(ing)”.
  1. God’s way of atonement is not an impenetrable mystery but was kept secret until the right time; in the proclamation of God’s kingdom concerning Jesus the Messiah the secret is fully divulged and should now be heralded clearly to the entire human family for their salvation.
  1. The reason for keeping the true nature of the atonement a secret for long ages was to prevent Satan, the powerful and malicious enemy of God and humanity, from knowing the means of his overthrow before the plan could be consummated. The atonement was necessary in order to reclaim God’s creation from total loss at the hand of Satan and his kingdom of malice and vice.
  1. Satan was created a son of God, a chief messenger in the council of heaven with authority to probe the quality of human behavior on earth and to prosecute adverse judgments or curses, entailing also control of death.
  1. Satan increasingly misused his authority out of envy toward God’s only-born Son, although he continued to retain his authority; other messengers were corrupted by his deceptions and fell in with his rebellion, yet not beyond the foresight of God.
  1. Adam and Eve were not created immortal; they needed the fruit of the Tree of Life in order to sustain lasting life.
  1. Satan knew that if he could succeed in tempting Adam and Eve to believe his lie and act on it, they would be penalized by death and would start repeatedly choosing evils that deceptively held out prospects of longer life, even at the expense of others, out of fear of death, consequently becoming addicted to his spiraling cycle of sin and evil and thus join him in enmity against God.
  1. Adam and Eve, motivated by the lust or covetousness of their flesh, sinned by distrusting the pro-life explanation of their Creator and believing Satan’s devious misrepresentation of life instead.  They touched and ate what, in effect, was unclean—a channel of evil—so were contaminated.
  1. The first consequences for transgressing God’s directive and eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil were curses that brought the evils of enmity, hurt, multiplied grief and groaning, subordination, impaired productivity, and hard labor.  The ultimate penalty for transgressing God’s directive was banishment from the means of immortality, the fruit of the Tree of Life; for to have the potential to propagate evil and yet never die would mean the inevitable proliferation of devastation throughout the whole earth—Satan’s strategic aim.  Human beings have been paying this penalty for their sins ever since.
  1. The original couple did not “die spiritually” on that fateful day; they started to die as integral organisms and at length disintegrated and returned to the soil of the ground, their souls consigned to the unseen.
  1. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, they and their descendants suffered banishment from Eden and denial of access to the Tree of Life; thus death passed through to all his descendants as well, whereupon, perforce, all have sinned ever since, therefore death reigns as a slave master to keep people in bondage to sin.  Sin reigns in death and is the sting or harm that death and its fear bring; accordingly, Adam’s sin ushered evil of every description into the world.  Even so, Adam’s sin was not imputed to his descendants; they died for their own sins.
  1. Sin and evil are not to be equated; God introduced sacrifices for sins, not for evils as such.  God is righteous even when he determines evils upon the vicious, whereas humans often sin even in the very goods they choose.  An evil is simply any hurtful influence, but it can be wielded for right or wrong.
  1. Human nature, our somatic structure, is good in accord with God’s original design and not in the least disgraceful or shameful, yet without the glory of lasting vitality, human flesh becomes host to failure and decay. Sin inheres in human flesh, which is now deficient in vitality and glory due to death naturally passing through all mankind deprived of the fruit of the Tree of Life.
  1. The psychical manifestation of our dying and decaying flesh is the phenomenon of lust, covetousness, or inordinate craving, inclined toward seeking our lost life and glory parasitically from illegitimate sources in order to gratify the corrupt yearnings stemming from our mortal state.
  1. God started giving historic tokens of how, in his love, he would rectify our mortal plight by introducing the sacrifice of innocent animals in response to sins.  Thus God himself made tunics of skin for Adam and Eve, both to clothe them in protective coverings from adverse elements and to hide the effect of their sin—their shameful nakedness due to deficiency of glory.
  1. Love sacrifices one’s own resources of life in order to sustain others, resulting in joy, thanksgiving, and mutual prosperity; lust sacrifices others’ resources of life to sustain one’s own, leading to crime and fostering addiction, greed, and idolatry.
  1. When Cain murdered his brother Abel, the innocent blood (representing Abel’s just soul or existence) cried to God from the ground, and God heard and announced the ground’s curse against the offender to avenge the innocent existence that was lost.  Nevertheless, God provided a protective sign for Cain that created fear of a sevenfold avenging against any who might be tempted to escalate copycat violence by imitation.
  1. Lamech boasted that if Cain, who did not murder Abel in return for a physical injury, would be avenged sevenfold in case of an attempt on his life, then such an attempt against Lamech should be avenged seventy-seven fold since he had killed in return for injuries received.  Jesus refers to this exact expression to teach God’s desire that we exercise superexcessive forgiveness instead of holding sins and building up enmity—in effect, to bear sins ourselves instead of retaliating, and then wait for God to restore the loss in his own time.
  1. The episode of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his beloved and only son Isaac on mount Moriah in faithful obedience to God’s directive unveiled that God would one day be giving his own beloved and only-born Son as the paramount sacrifice; however, to preempt Abraham from performing the actual divinely abhorrent sin of human sacrifice, God provided an animal substitute instead.  The coming Savior would phase out all animal substitutes by means of the human sacrifice that Satan would oblige Israel to make, but which would be his own undoing.
  1. The career of Joseph similarly displays how the lengthy and unjust afflictions of the righteous are recompensed by God’s overruling justice, as if bringing life back from the dead, with superabundant honor and wealth to benefit multitudes, including extending graciousness even to the initiators of the afflictions, since what they mean for evil, God can wonderfully work together for good to advance his reputation.
  1. The history of Job teaches not only that Satan was authorized to test and try human beings by prosecuting adversarial judgments, but also that God overcompensates wrongful injuries by rewarding the righteous many fold; in Job’s case, his life was spared in the trial, but in the case of the Savior, strategically, Satan was issued no such restriction.
  1. The Passover event pictured the protective function of the blood of a flawless lamb, the entire body of which was to be roasted and served whole, and which thus also gave life by way of nourishment, as a dim figure of the coming Savior’s own whole-body sacrifice and resulting full-orbed benefits to others; an obedient celestial messenger of death did God’s bidding to execute His judgment of ruin upon households where the shed blood, signifying preservation of lives through the death of an innocent soul, was not applied to the entrance.
  1. The Instruction from Mt. Sinai was prescribed through celestial messengers and mediated by the hand of Moses, signifying the fallible agencies God strategically employed to administer this temporary expedient.
  1. The tabernacle represented fundamental celestial realities of God’s kingdom; the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies (“most holy place”) symbolized the throne of the Holy One of Israel.
  1. The cherubim on the solid gold protective cover of the ark, recollecting the cherubim keeping the way of the Tree of Life, here likewise symbolically guarded the life of God’s kingdom that had been covenanted to the future Savior:  duplicate sets of the miraculously inscribed directives for life; the rod of Aaron, the chief priest of Israel, that miraculously budded and brought miraculous refreshment and rescue of life; and a jar of the manna that miraculously fell from heaven to sustain life.
  1. The Day of Atonement, once per year, taught dual aspects of the future once-for-all atonement by the ritual use of two identical goats.  The goat of departure, released alive into an inaccessible wilderness, depicted the release of all Israel’s sins into oblivion.  The slain goat portrayed a spilling of life that cleansed the sacred precincts from the contamination of sin when its blood was spattered there.  The act of spattering blood on the protective cover was itself termed “making a protective covering”, hereby prophetically anticipating the single event in heaven that would fully integrate these shadowy figures and culminate a true atonement once and for all.
  1. The Levitical system of sacrifices inaugurated by Moses taught that this daily deliberate shedding of innocent blood effected a protective covering around sins by virtue of the innocent living soul whose life it had sustained and now represented; sacrificial blood signified restoration of life, and thereby holiness, through a violent, wrongful death rectified by a super-compensating resurrection.
  1. The spattering of oil during various rituals, often in conjunction with blood, symbolized the Holy Spirit of life poured out to cleanse and make wholesome whatever was anointed, in recompense for the lifeblood poured out from the sacrifice.
  1. The fact that the Hebrew (also LXX Greek) word for sin is the identical word translated “sin-offering”—and often found side by side in Leviticus—means that the daily sin-offerings prophetically depicted an actual future sin that would achieve a cleansing of sins to finality.  Slaying a spotless and flawless animal dramatizes the future sin of murdering a blameless and sinless human being.
  1. The brazen serpent that Moses raised onto a pole foreshadowed the future sin that would be a channel for literal healing to all who roused themselves in the obedience of faith to accept it as the divine remedy for getting injected with the poison of sin.  What happened at the Cross was an extraordinary sin, demanding extraordinary satisfaction.
  1. Holiness is to life what decay is to death; holiness therefore refers to the wholesomeness that stems from undiminished life, which the human family forfeited when our first parents sinned.  Expressed in a formula—holiness : corruption : : life : death.
  1. The central meaning of holiness therefore is not separation from sin but the vital energy that supports vigorous life and thus maintains health, staving off decay and disease.  With the disruption of the world by sin, God graciously introduced temporary regulations to keep his dying people quarantined from influences that in their weakened condition could compromise their health and wellbeing until the final solution could be effected and offered; this is the rationale for the holiness code of ancient Israel.  To touch something unclean was contaminating because sinful humans did not possess the power to prevent the corrupting or degenerative evils resulting, much less reverse them, consequently they were at risk in surroundings where death still reigned.
  1. Divine justice, according to the Instruction of Moses, required more than simple compensation to victims by perpetrators of willful injuries; such offenders must make overcompensation that included in some cases an additional twenty percent; in other cases, double, four-fold, five-fold, or even seven-fold repayment was specified.  God was here taking into account the multiple and complicated effects of sin, including psychical and other costs to the victim.
  1. The Psalms prophetically testify in abundance that God, by virtue of His own covenantal righteousness and restorative justice, raises up and rewards with a surplus the just and righteous who expectantly wait for him; he also wisely and justly rewards the vicious deeds of the arrogant with a surplus of evil to correct them, if possible, and bring them to a change of mind and behavior.
  1. In the Psalms, God’s restorative righteousness far outweighs his penal justice in frequency, intensity, and duration, thereby evoking jubilant praise from his erring children.  God need not punish every single sin (beyond the death penalty which we all must suffer for them eventually anyway)—this is discretionary and optional, according to his disciplinary prudence; but he must necessarily reward the righteous for every good deed—even the smallest is not forgotten.  God’s punitive justice is mercifully lenient; his restorative justice is beyond strict.  God has neither done to us according to our sins nor requited us according to our depravities; sins he may avenge, but righteousness he must reward, according to his fatherly wisdom.
  1. The Psalms teach that God’s wrath is because of his love:  he gets angry at our enemies because of his covenantal love for us; he stirs up his fury to avenge injuries against his loved ones.  By the same token, he gets angry with his loved ones when they stop repenting and seeking forgiveness for their sins, which both sabotage their own maturity and harm their neighbors and associates; therefore God prepares evils to discipline them like a father would.  Yet his wrath and favor—penalty and reward—are not expressed toward one and the same object simultaneously, for this would be more than paradoxical, it would be incoherent and contradictory.
  1. The Proverbs reveal the divine wisdom whereby Satan’s career-long folly and devious viciousness deceived and blinded him into sabotaging his own interests and depriving himself of his own kingdom and authority.  His nemesis, Jesus, became true wisdom to us from God.
  1. Ecclesiastes reveals the bleak futility of life under the sun aside from Jehovah’s mighty restorative deeds of salvation as counterweight to the rigmarole of life disrupted by sin and its adventitious evils of Satanic oppression, ending in death.
  1. Isaiah prophesied that the coming Servant of Jehovah would, unbelievably, be stunted—a runt; unlike the patriarch Joseph, he would have neither lovely shape and appearance nor honor; being sickly, despised, shunned, and shy, he would be considered insignificant; he would be bullied and ridiculed throughout his youth and eventually abused physically beyond description.  (Perhaps for this reason Jesus was not immediately recognized after his resurrection since these conditions may have been significantly rectified.)  Accordingly, with so many strikes against him, people would regard his humiliation as being caused by God due to his sin.
  1. To the contrary, God surrendered him to their abusive sins as a sin-offering and on account of their depravities; he got their illnesses and was burdened with the aggravated pains they inflicted.  He was deprived of fair judgment—unfairly cut off by death, without offspring or heirs.  Sins were not imputed to him by God any more than wounds, sickness, or sorrows were; much rather, he actually bore them, i.e., was subjected to their sins and experientially suffered their attacks.  If any such evil had been imputed to him by God, it would have amounted to an injustice by a God known for righteousness—an absolute impossibility.
  1. God himself struck his appointed Shepherd by the hand of his enemies (ultimately by Satan) and the sheep of the flock were scattered, yet God no more did this in wrath than the angel did who struck Peter to rouse him from sleep and extricate him from the hand of Herod (who, in the same chapter of Acts, was also struck by an angel because he refused to give credit to God, and became the food of worms instead).  Jesus was the fall guy who thereby became the raised guy on behalf of the whole flock.
  1. Despite his striking handicaps, disadvantages, and ill-esteem, God’s Servant would not slander or revile his tormentors and insulters, do anyone wrong, or practice deceit or guile to cover his shame.  Jehovah, in him, would intercede on their behalf because of all this depravity they unleashed against him, which he would bear without complaint, reviling, or retaliation.  Whereas Lamech avenged himself by destroying a person in exchange for a wound he inflicted, in stark contrast, God requited his Servant by dispensing healing to others in exchange for the wounds they inflicted.  This powerfully epitomizes God’s intervening, restorative justice.
  1. Finally, regardless of his mortal setback, the Servant of Jehovah would see offspring, see long life, and see God’s desire succeed in his hand; Jehovah intended to unburden him and show him light again at the end of these noble and heroic labors at serving Israel well; therefore he would inherit many allotments and share with others the spoils of the strong whom he bound by his victory.
  1. Isaiah and Jeremiah both prophesy of a righteousness properly belonging to Jehovah himself—his very own—that would be granted by him to believing Israel as well, which they could properly boast as their own and claim in his name and authority, because the Servant of Jehovah would, by his faithfulness, justify many others besides himself.  “Jehovah our righteousness” refers to the Spirit of Jehovah which has now been dispensed through the proclamation of God’s kingdom and Messiah Jesus on account of the new covenant in his blood.
  1. In Lamentations, Jeremiah declares that Jehovah recompenses according to the work of one’s hands; Jesus’ good works of miraculous provision, healing, rescue, even raising from death, were abundantly repaid by his exaltation and awarded inheritance.  Thus was he requited according to his righteousness and recompensed according to the purity of his hands.
  1. God commissioned his messenger Gabriel to announce to Daniel a divine agenda of results to ensue from the cutting off of Messiah by death, namely:  to conclude the sin-offering (his once-for-all sacrifice by crucifixion), to release injustices (his declaration of wholesale pardon to all who trust him), to make a protective covering for injustices (his atonement and perpetual intercessory entreaty at the throne of God), to usher in agelong righteousness (his justification of all sinners who believe via his resurrection power), to seal vision and prophet (his hardening of ethnic Israel, culminating in their political termination), and to anoint the holy of holies (his enthronement as Messiah, issuing in the outpouring of Spirit upon the earthly sanctuary at Pentecost).
  1. Daniel perceived a vision of one as a son of mankind coming to the Ancient of Days and being offered to Him; in return, to him was granted sovereignty and honor and kingship; all peoples and tribes and language groups would serve him; his authority would be an agelong authority which would not pass away, and his kingdom would never dissolve.  Jesus used this title, “son of mankind”, as his favorite self-designation because although it referred exclusively to a human being, Daniel’s vision thrust this man where no mortal had gone before, and as an offering as well—precisely the strange facts that threw Daniel into consternation.
  1. Daniel’s prophetic chronology of years from the going forth of the decree from Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem until the anointing of the Messiah, Jesus, at his Immersion, is correct; Ptolemy’s standard, though uncorroborated, chronology is wrong, being more than 80 years too long, consequently misleading many generations of theologians into fruitless apocalyptic speculations of diverse sorts concerning the future.  The chronological climax of Daniel’s prophecies was Messiah’s climactic atonement project.
  1. Shalom refers to a state of human affairs characterized by graciousness, where obligations are either being substantially met or forgiven, and hence where no avenging is brewing; war may ensue where servicing of obligations has ceased or their gracious relinquishment is not forthcoming, so indignation at injustices (real, imagined, or fabricated out of greed) may build to the bursting point.  To repay/restore is definitive of shalom, but is superseded by pardon, in which case the creditor absorbs the loss voluntarily instead.
  1. Before the ages of time, God the Father begot a Son after His kind, with whom time began; he is the reason why and through whom God made the ages and created all things good, in heaven and on earth.  As the firstborn of all creation, he also became the firstborn from the dead—the last Adam and progenitor of a new humanity, the body of Messiah, comprising all who get immersed in him and thus participate in the divine nature through his Spirit.
  1. After the disruption of the world by sin, in the fullness of time, God sent his Son to earth to become a living soul, adapting a mortal human body of flesh and blood to him through the virgin Mary—a descendant of king David to whom God had made promises concerning a royal descendant whose rule would never end—specifically to die for sins and thereby bring salvation to all mankind when he was raised from the dead as a vivifying Spirit.  This purpose was embodied also in his name, Jesus/Joshua—Jeh(ovah) [is] salvation.
  1. Jesus lived his entire childhood, youth, and young manhood without sin, being staunch in spirit, filled with wisdom, the favor of God resting on him, learning  obedience from the many abuses he suffered, accepting them as discipline from his Father, resisting the temptations that his mortal flesh and its lusts brought, and thus becoming qualified for more of God’s Spirit of wholesomeness and power.
  1. Consequently, at his immersion by John, Jesus had no sins to confess, yet he humbled himself to fulfill all righteousness and was therefore anointed by God beyond his human partners in preparation for much greater service, receiving public endorsement from God by the visible appearance of the Spirit as a dove descending on him, plus the audible manifestation of a voice from heaven:  “You are my Son, the Beloved; in you I delight!”
  1. Upon his receiving these testimonies, the Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tried more severely by Satan concerning the authenticity of his unique sonship, to test whether he would continue to be faithful to his Father’s directives for receiving his filial blessings or not; his conquest, by faithfulness, was followed by an endowment of fresh power of the Spirit to work signs, miracles, exorcisms, healings, etc., in order to start annulling the activities of the Adversary and overthrowing his kingdom.
  1. Jesus immediately began heralding the kingdom of God to Israel, teaching its characteristics and requirements, and demonstrating its nature, with the intention of producing learners who would become just like him—conquering Satan’s kingdom and authority everywhere they went and bringing God’s kingdom to replace it, inviting all mankind without distinction to change their minds, turn back to God, and believe his proclamation.
  1. Jesus taught a righteousness that far exceeded what the theological scholars and religious leaders of the Jews were teaching and practicing; this included loving one’s enemies, overcoming racial prejudice, refusing to retaliate, forgiving offenses without limit, showing mercy without expectation of return, being amenable to others, purity of heart, accepting persecution gracefully, awaiting God’s rescue, being content with what one has, not turning away from those asking help, going the second mile, bending rules to meet human needs, regarding others as better than oneself, not stockpiling worldly goods, not being worried about the morrow, trusting God for every need, getting ready for the Lord’s return, being faithful to the very end, whatever it takes, etc.
  1. Due to his obedient faithfulness and perfect sinlessness, exposing the viciousness and hypocrisy in those around him, Jesus in turn was exposed to the unleashed evils of Satan’s dread kingdom and soon aroused the envy and hatred of the Jewish leaders, which led to inevitable opposition and trumped-up charges, climaxing in his secret arrest, nocturnal trial, unjust condemnation, numerous gratuitous punishments, and ultimate crucifixion.
  1. When one of his followers, in over-protective fury, severed the ear of the chief priest’s slave, Jesus touched the ear and healed him, explaining that he had privileged access to more than twelve legions of heaven’s messengers at his command to protect him or even destroy his enemies, but he would not deploy them on his own behalf to save his life, lest the Scriptures become a dead letter.
  1. On the way to Golgotha, Jesus told the vast multitude of Jewish women who grieved and wailed over him not to lament over him, but over themselves and their children for the horrors awaiting Jerusalem because of this unparalleled sin, for the entire people had said at his trial, “His blood be on us and on our children!” and thus brought his most innocent blood upon their own heads; he was not facing the wrath of God, they were, for the blood of all their prophets would be exacted, at last, from their generation for all the rejected mercies and squandered privileges;  whereas immediately after this episode, in starkest contrast, even as Jesus was being crucified, he interceded with God for his Roman executioners, “Father, forgive them, for they’re not aware what they’re doing!”; thus to both groups he practiced what he preached about not avenging oneself (even though, of all people, he could have done it judiciously), awaiting God’s vindication instead.
  1. Jesus’ agonies and abuses drew blood at every turn—in the Garden of Gethsemane where he literally sweat blood, his severe scourging, being beaten on the head with a reed as well as struck with fists and slapped in the face, having a wreath of thorns forced onto his scalp—the part of the body supplied with the most blood vessels and which bleeds most profusely when wounded—and then being pierced in hands and feet to hang for hours, and finally thrust through with a spear; this man was literally drenched in blood and battered beyond recognition—an exceptional crucifixion by any fair accounting; thus did our Chief Priest and Mediator allow his own innocent blood to be shed.
  1. The blood of Jesus is the central saving metaphor in the Scriptures; it is associated with virtually every expression of salvation found there:  pardon of sins, the new covenant, agelong life, getting procured by God, protective coverage, being justified, being saved, blessing, deliverance/ liberation from transgressions, becoming near to God, peacemaking, reconciliation, agelong redemption, making holy/wholesome, cleansing of conscience, offering divine service, dedication, eliminating sins, entrance of the holy places, leading up from the dead, being ransomed, loosing from sins, being bought for God, whitening robes by rinsing, and conquering the Accuser.  Even the ancient blood rite of circumcision is a shadow illustration of the crucifixion of Messiah—the stripping off of his entire body of flesh so as to receive a new body, by resurrection, into which all human beings may be implanted as bodily members, by faith, without discrimination of sex, ethnicity, social, economic, political status, etc.; all who trust him are equally clean and acceptable in the eyes of God.
  1. God’s righteous law and justice did not need to be appeased by the blood of Messiah; it could only be satisfied by his resurrection with great glory.  That blood—signifying the soul of Jesus wrongfully taken in death (although he had the right to lay it down) yet justified by God’s Spirit in resurrection (since he likewise had the right to get it back)—is what cleans our hearts from sins because its spattering there brings the Spirit of anointing by way of divine recompense for the abuse that Jesus suffered from many; getting spattered by the protective blood depicts getting curatively touched by the just soul of this wholesome Lamb of God.  Thus God’s Son, as the human partner in the new covenant, had to die in order for the promises sworn to him by God, the divine partner to the covenant, to be fulfilled by divinely just compensation in all their cosmic magnitude, against impossible odds, to raise our flagging expectations.
  1. What befell Jesus on the cross was not divine justice in the least, but diabolical rage—an outrage to divine justice.  God gave no orders to kill but, quite the opposite, countervailed the diabolic thrust by divine ‘judo’.  Messiah’s wretched execution did not satisfy any demand of Moses’ law by any stretch of wholesome imagination.  That law could only be satisfied by a mighty reversal of such a wicked sentence.  God by no means colluded in that lawless act but instead openly, extravagantly, embarrassed it in very short order, completely shaming those enacting its curse and misappropriating it against His Just One.
  1. Messiah never experienced the cup of God’s wrath any more than Joseph, Job, Jeremiah, or Daniel and his three friends did; he died in God’s favor and graciousness through drinking to the dregs the cup of Satan’s afflictions, channeled through his people, at the hand of the Roman authorities.  We are safe when immersed into Messiah because, demonstrably, he was never subjected to God’s wrath, nor possibly could be, but was ever the beloved recipient of phenomenal divine favor, despite all appearances to the contrary inflicted by Satan to discredit and humiliate him.  This is our anchor and confidence before God and foes alike.  This is the substance of our protective coverage plan by God-Father & Son, Incorporated.  The Wholesome Spirit, doing deeds of power among us, is our pledge and surety of coverage, without which security we would be exposed to divine avenging for our wrongs.
  1. Neither ‘righteousness and mercy’, nor ‘wrath and mercy’, nor ‘justice and grace’, nor ‘justice and love’, nor ‘holiness and love’, etc., ought to be pitted against one another so that they must beg for reconciliation; such dualistic formulas ought to be continually wrestled down and brought into submission to the Holy Spirit’s use of language throughout Scripture instead of followed meekly into dialectical traps.
  1. Jesus’ cry of abandonment from the cross was thoroughly genuine, for God had indeed forsaken him in accord with the curse of the law wrongly wielded against him by the corrupted agency of Satan, and necessarily taking its unviewable lethal effect; yet this was only for a cosmic moment, and only so that the life he was losing (without which decisive severance from its Source, he may well have agonized interminably) could be returned manifold through the magnifying factor of God’s overcompensating justice, thereby all the more glorifying the astronomical expanse of his salvation to give us courage for enduring the worst Satan can dish out without wavering in faith about the ultimate outcome.
  1. The cross was in no sense a divine punishment for our sins, much rather it was the worst sin ever committed; its enormity thus led to the greatest conceivable good via the divine Judge’s own just restitution, for Jesus’ incomparable humiliation deserved an exaltation of greatly compensating magnitude.  Only the Jewish enemies of Jesus ever claimed that he was actually cursed by God for being hung on a Roman cross; this was not a genuine early Christian teaching at all.
  1. Jesus’ cry from the cross, “It has gotten accomplished!” (literally), did not refer to finishing the process of conciliating the world to God, but to the fulfillment of all prophecy relating to his suffering abuse so that he could enter his glory.  Yet this never included abuse from God; there was no violence initiated by God’s own hand at the cross—no ‘divine child abuse’, accepted willingly or otherwise—for even the ‘violence’ (forcefulness) of those snatching God’s kingdom refers not to the vicious, but to those persons who had all along been forcing themselves on Jesus, by faith, in order to receive help and healing, which was always graciously forthcoming.
  1. Jesus’ cry, “Into Your hands am I committing my spirit,” was uttered in full confidence of the next clause in the Psalm, “You have ransomed me, O Jehovah, God of faithfulness.”  He gave himself as a ransom for all, in full expectation that his Father would, in turn, ransom him from death via resurrection.  By losing his soul, out of love for the sinful whom he asked God to forgive because of their ignorance (of the secret hid for ages, and necessarily so in order that their slave master might be overthrown), Jesus was overcompensated with a whole new body—a new humanity, in fact a whole new creation in which all ethnic, linguistic, geographic, and political barriers would be transcended to create a new peaceful and reconciled union of human solidarity—the Last Adam.
  1. Messiah’s death on the cross was the revelation of the magnitude of God’s love for people because it proved that he was less interested in upholding his own honor and rights by demanding repayment from us or by immediately retaliating against this grave sin than in demonstrating his pardon of it in order to draw sinners to conciliate with him by graciousness, in prompting voluntary commitment and loyalty, and, much more, to actually return our lost legacy of endless life.  Jesus didn’t die so that we wouldn’t have to; he died so that we could live again anyway.
  1. Messiah’s cross, per se, does not save anyone, any more than it saved him; on the contrary, that was the occasion of his unjust condemnation and demise, as those present testified.  Jesus was saved by his resurrection—his powerfully victorious exodus from death.  The righteousness of God was unveiled not at Messiah’s crucifixion in the least, but at his resurrection; his resurrection defines God’s righteousness.  The Lord Jesus was raised from the dead as just recompense for his unjust humiliation.
  1. The purpose of the atonement was not to objectively remove God’s indignation against sin in the least; in fact, his anger burns against all who obstinately distrust his proclamation and refuse to stop sinning and start pursuing righteousness, but such wrath is reserved for the incorrigible.  However, his displeasure does come in lesser measure to his own children when they don’t avail themselves of his life-giving blood to stay clean of adventitious sins that could harden them and thereby provoke greater severity.  The aim of the atonement was to provide protective coverage for sins as well as to actually rid the creation of sin and make us worthy of agelong life.  God’s saving righteousness in eras prior to the coming of Messiah was manifest in his kindly bypassing many of the sins his children committed along the way to maturity, which is exactly what the protective covering was all about and what it achieved through the love of God—namely, coverage against the contingency of premature avenging.
  1. God did not conciliate the world to himself at the cross.  Nobody was conciliated on the day Jesus was crucified except one of the criminals crucified along with him.  And that is the proper pattern.  Conciliation happens one by one as people hear and obey by faith the call of the proclamation, “For Messiah’s sake, be conciliated to God!”
  1. God never needed to become reconciled to the world since he was never the enemy of mankind,  nor can he in any sense become ‘reconciled to’ its sin, which he hates because it harms and destroys the objects of his inalienable love.  God did not need to be conciliated to mankind because his attitude of love never changed nor can change; quite the contrary, human beings need to have their hostility placated and pacified.  The explanation of the cross, truly understood and attested by the Spirit’s exposure of sin, righteousness, and judgment, accomplishes precisely this—eminently so.
  1. The only-born Son perfectly imaged and characterized his Father’s love toward the human family—both during his entire life and especially in his sacrificial death.  At his immersion by John, he was granted the full contents of Deity—the Spirit of graciousness and truth—without measure, in order to accomplish his rescuing mission of suffering hideous abuse without the least semblance of wrath or vengeance, but instead as a protective covering by virtue of the faithfulness of his just existence (poured out for us in his lifeblood).  This Spirit of Jehovah in him, along with Jesus’ full acquiescence and his own desire in concert, produced within him, and by his hand, all the righteousness he exhibited; that made him worthy of getting munificently overcompensated by God’s righteousness, for all his humiliation, to receive a salvation of such proportions that it can embrace the whole world.
  1. This identical Spirit of the Son’s and Father’s gracious behaviors, respectively displayed at the cross and resurrection, reveals the motive and pattern of God’s reign; this is the normative motive and pattern of our own conduct as well—the throbbing heart of all authentic Christian ethics.  Jesus is the first person to be totally accredited and rewarded by God for his entire life’s docket of good works; he is our forerunner to give us expectation and hence endurance to follow his directions to life, come what may.
  1. Scripture nowhere teaches that Jesus’ own righteousness can be imputed or credited to others; neither is his righteousness or obedience declared to be an outer garment or robe to be worn, much less borrowed, by sinners.  Far otherwise, we are repeatedly urged by New Testament authors to assume a fundamentally new humanity, i.e., to put on a whole new set of behaviors to become diligently habituated to, in the power of the Spirit of the Lord, where there is real freedom from our former enslaving vices.  This new persona is to replace our former fleshly conduct, which is to be stripped off as in circumcision, deadened, in expectation of bodily salvation yet to come.  According to a wealth of scripture in both testaments, human righteousness is by no means hateful to God but is pleasing and wins his approbation, so far as it goes; but it falls far short of God’s ideal, visible in the conduct of Jesus, who is, besides everything else, our model and exemplar.  We must beware lest we come to the pass of having to lament with remorse, “All our righteousness is as an ornamented garment!” (Isaiah 64:6, Masoretic text), i.e., merely external, for show, hypocritical, sequined (or worse…).  And how could our rectitude start to compare with God’s own saving righteousness shown in his rescuing Jesus from among the dead for our sakes?
  1. God’s love and righteousness are not opposing principles; God loves because he is righteous and justifies because he is loving.  He does not forgive sins in spite of his penal justice but in line with his restorative justice, which furnishes a protective shelter for his covenant children while they grow up.  Apart from bloodshed no pardon ensues, not because God is reluctant or unable to forgive without it, but because human beings could not believe God would be so kind and therefore had to be shown in a demonstration of such overwhelming self-sacrifice and non-retaliation that their hard hearts would be broken and they could change their minds, be drawn back to God, be conciliated, and accept pardon.  The proclamation of this old, old story—God’s own explanation for the cross—is his power for salvation and is quite sufficient to the purpose for which he sent it; furthermore, if that weren’t enough, the testimony of apostolic scripture is independently corroborated by God’s Spirit.  Yet if hearers still refuse to trust God, they hoard up indignation that at length breaks forth in destruction unless repentance is forthcoming.
  1. Messiah did not pay for sin(s); rather, by his ransom to death he paid for human beings, buying them out of captivity to death and Satan’s control.  In response, God paid him superabundant life which, in turn, he gives away for free in the form of the indescribable gift of his Spirit of wholesomeness—an immersion that washes away the contamination of sin—to all who merely believe the proclamation.  This ransom was achievable only because Jesus possessed the full contents of Deity, although in the outward form of a slave, in order to ransom the world out of its slavery to Satan and sin; this slavery is a reflex of the fear of death—the final enemy.
  1. Accordingly, God never received any payment of our debts from Jesus, and although Messiah’s obedience was the highest and most perfect of any, yet he received an incomparably greater reward for it.  This judicial award had nothing to do with a satisfaction for sin but ought to be ascribed to the abundant graciousness and generosity of God, because he not only received nothing of what we owed him, and even forgave us all our debts wholesale, but because he also gave a sacrificial victim of his own—his only-born and beloved Son, the Lamb without blemish—for us and our sins, not that he might pay himself anything for us (a strange roundabout fiction), but might instead create for us a much greater and more certain right to pardon and agelong life, and might even go so far as to bind himself by an oath to confer it on us and thereby turn us back to himself and bless us immeasurably.
  1. The sweet exchange of redemption does not consist in the Lord suffering God’s wrath for our sins as a substitute so that we could go free, but in Jesus paying his soul to death as a ransom so that God, in turn, would do him real justice by ransoming him from death through resurrection and highest exaltation plus extravagant blessings everflowing.  Therefore Jesus did not take the place of sinners under God’s wrath since he never experienced God’s wrath.  Jesus ransomed us not from his Father’s anger and vengeance but from the jaws of certain death and therefore from the fear of death; that’s how he redeemed or liberated us from all the lawless and sinful behaviors that are reflexes of dreading death.  Thereby he disarmed Satan’s forces of temptation and seduction, enabling us to deaden the lusts that serve as the Devil’s meat hooks in our flesh.
  1. The atonement process commenced on the day Jesus’ blood was poured out, but it was not consummated until he finally sat down on his Father’s throne (figured by the spattering of blood on the solid gold protective cover of the ark of the covenant).  Thereupon he commenced his new career of full-time royal and sacred intercession for his brethren, awaiting his Father’s placing all enemies under his feet.
  1. God’s retributive justice of wrath upon those of Jesus’ tormentors who remained stubborn was mercifully delayed some forty years until the horror of desolation prophesied by Daniel—the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by Messiah himself at his avenging presence from heaven upon that generation of privilege.  His first advent was in graciousness, for salvation, accompanied by an immersion in the Spirit of Jehovah from on high; his return presence was in indignation and avenging, for destruction, accompanied by an immersion of fire in the judgment of Gehenna.  This reveals the divine pattern of God’s judicial behavior, enabling us to administer the graciousness of God with prophetic insight during the remainder of history, thereby fulfilling his mission to all nations most  prudently and productively.
  1. When the resurrected Jesus was finally glorified with his full anointing, he expelled Satan from heaven, who had been accusing the brethren before God continuously, and rendered wholesome all that had been contaminated by him and his messengers.  When he at last sat down on his throne at God’s right side, the cleansing of sins in heaven was complete and the reign of Messiah could begin on earth by means of the Spirit of the Father and the Son sent in great abundance to make wholesome and righteous all who believe.
  1. The outpouring at Pentecost was the “anointing of the sanctuary” that had been prophesied.  The spoils of Christ’s victory then began showering down so that mankind could start benefiting from such a great salvation, because as a reward for his unjust humiliation Jesus was requited with seed, offspring, children, daughters and sons—heirs who would enjoy his future inheritance from the Father along with him.  Hence the promise of the Father was given him and sent in superabundance from heaven to earth at Pentecost as surety of our full inheritance of allotments in his coming kingdom.
  1. Pentecost was also the inauguration of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies of God’s dispensing his own righteousness—his own Wholesome Spirit of power for life and obedience—as the fruit of a new covenant.  This brought God’s authentic authority and power to earth to escalate the process of expelling the forces of the interloper Satan from his earthly haunts as well.  God has ever since been successively subordinating all enemies to the Messiah in preparation for the consummation, when He himself shall be all in all.
  1. The tongues of fire at Pentecost were anticipatory of the second aspect of John’s prophecy of Messiah’s Immersion—that of fire—which was mercifully delayed till the end of that generation so as to reap a harvest from Israel for God’s kingdom by proclaiming God’s gracious pardon to them first.
  1. In order to deal with the sin in our flesh, God restores an increased measure of life to our hearts through the Spirit of wholesomeness; in accord with the nature of wholesomeness, this necessarily includes miraculous healing of bodies as well.  This is the era of assertive, aggressive, contagious wholesomeness; the proliferation of healing is an intended and proper result of the overcompensating reward bestowed on Messiah which he in turn bestows on our faith.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God, but all things are possible to those who believe; great things are to follow for those who do so.  Jesus taught us unequivocally to expect to be able to do even greater things than he did since he had to leave and rejoin his Father, there to fulfill his role as sympathizing and empathizing intercessor on our behalf.
  1. Our trust or faith is the rightful condition of our salvation because it is not an action or work at all and therefore does not put God in our debt; hence it is in full accord with God’s graciousness.  God regards our trust itself as righteousness, thereupon granting his promised gift of Wholesome Spirit, from whose uncreated power all the good fruits of our righteousness stem; when God sees trust, he declares, “Just!”  All who believe are begotten above and get their names written on the Scroll of Life of the slain Lamb as naturalized citizens of the New Jerusalem to come, mother of all who are true Jews in Spirit, not in flesh or letter only, and which includes non-Jews from all nations.
  1. When the Instruction of Moses itself—in the hands of messengers—condemned the absolutely, truly, and fully just man, Jesus, the righteousness of that ancient law, along with its corrupt emissaries, became permanently eclipsed.  His own righteousness became the new law, with powerful endorsements from God, including the dispensing of the very means whereby the Son himself stayed righteous during his sojourn—the residing of the Wholesome Spirit, i.e., Jehovah’s righteousness, so that we ourselves too can truly claim:  “Jehovah is our righteousness!”
  1. The Wholesome Spirit of God himself is our guide into all the truth of which the written law of the old covenant was but a form and shadow in the hands of mere messengers and fallible, often compromised, custodians; being itself nailed to the cross by venting its curse on a sinless victim, it has now been stripped off, shamed, and demoted.  The higher truth that Messiah taught, recorded in the Gospels, is our new and far superior criterion for righteousness, which he himself exhibited to perfection.  This explanation of truth is itself a key element in the atoning process for it is invested with the power to make wholesome all who remain in it, trust it, and hence do it.
  1. The apostle Paul nowhere teaches that humanity is dead in sin, rather he explained that believers in Jesus as Messiah—whether Jews or non-Jews by nature—are, by virtue of their immersion in him, not only dead to offenses, sins, and lusts which once made them liable to the anger of God when they likewise were sons of stubbornness, but also dead to the very foreskin that had separated non-Jews from “the Circumcision.”  So then God vivifies them together in Messiah, raises them together, and even seats them together among the celestials in Messiah without any racial distinction, treating all their offenses with equally undeserved favor, all because of God’s rich mercy and vast love.  From such an enormous investment in formerly estranged parties, God fully expects a chain reaction of kindness to overtake his diverse children and ramify throughout the world to draw multitudes more into the safety of his kingdom and graciousness.
  1. The ground and rationale of Paul’s characteristic superlatives was his sudden encounter with the resurrected Jesus, shockingly recognized as the real Messiah, the actual Son of Jehovah, God of Israel, by indisputable proofs, and full of graciousness beyond any rightful expectation; that God should be so good surpassed all theological speculation, bursting through every tidy theory of atonement and justification to rescue sinners from the grip of sickeningly sinister forces of darkness.
  1. Jews had nothing to fear from Christians in the earliest centuries of the church except to have to hear the raw truth concerning their sin of crucifying Jesus so that they would repent and become his followers too.  This was because Messiah’s followers were, like him, non-retaliatory toward their persecutors, Jewish or otherwise; they practiced the way of the cross as followers of the Lamb.  Those who claim the name of Messiah Jesus in our day, but dare to harm Jews or foment hatred against them (or anyone else for that matter) should be severely disciplined.  Jewish racism was the most violent enemy of the early church, but the non-avenging early Christians had credibility and divine warrant to expose and condemn such bullying boldly.  The loss of this essential element of authentic Christian teaching is tragically reinforced by the dominant penal theory of the atonement.  We can hardly expect better progress in proclaiming Messiah to Jews (much less Muslims whose vengeful doctrines are God’s own chastening rod upon a Constantinian reflex among “Christians” to “live by the sword”) until we restore the amazing truth about his resurrectionary atonement and boldly confront them with their complicity in making its benefits possible for the whole human race…thank God!
  1. Salvation, which is from the Jews, was expanded enormously to cover all tribes, languages, lands, and nations by way of just overcompensation when Jesus, the Messiah, was sacrificed by the Jews.  He thereby received all authority in heaven and on earth and is steadily procuring an inheritance among all peoples.  His magnanimous legacy from the Father now belongs to all believing mankind without distinction.

©2007, 2013   Ronald Lee Roper

October 31st (Reformation Day)—November 1st (All Saints’ Day)—

November 11th (Armistice/Veteran’s Day)—November 21st

Thanksgiving Day—November 23, 2007

(revised December 12, 18, 2007, March 16, 2013)

2 responses to “95 Theses on the Atonement

  1. Jonathen Favors

    Hey Ron,

    I’m curious as to what you have studied or read that lead you to the conclusions you made about Adam and Eve in regards to tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. I found the idea that once Adam and Eve were out of the garden they lost life source. Did you pick that up from Eastern Orthodox literature? I ask because I would love to read more about that perspective on the fall!

    Thanks,

    Jon

    • Sorry for the delay in responding, Jon! (I don’t seem to be getting notices in my Hotmail inbox anymore.) That’s a great question! However, I don’t exactly remember how that thought originated. I’ve been nurtured along by so many authors! However, it may well be an article by A. E. Knoch, whose Concordant Publishing Company publishes the version of the Bible I have found most helpful since my youth. But also my dissatisfaction with the theologies of Calvin and Augustine and their copyists has forced me to look at many key Scriptures anew. Whatever the case with me personally, however, the original context of Genesis associates God’s warning of death with the ban from the Tree of Life that any other option seems speculative, as, for instance, the notion that Adam and Eve had immortality on some grounds other than simply eating regularly from the fruit of this Tree. It seems worth drawing out the implications of this finding. Go for it.

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