Atonement: why Jesus had to die

Understand the Importance of Atonement: Why Jesus had to Die

What is atonement? What does it mean to atone for your sins? Look at the word “atone”. Let’s break it up: “at one”. At one with what or whom? At one with God. Here’s the dictionary definition of …


a·tone·ment| əˈtōnmənt | noun

Reparation for a wrong or injury: she wanted to make atonement for her husband’s behavior.  

(In religious contexts) reparation or expiation for sin: an annual ceremony of confession and atonement for sin.

(The Atonement) Christian Theology the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ. 

Origin: early 16th century (denoting unity or reconciliation, especially between God and man): from at one + -ment, influenced by medieval Latin adunamentum ‘unity’, and earlier onement from an obsolete verb one ‘to unite’.

“For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

Hebrews‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here’s a word that for once doesn’t come from Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. In fact, its roots are from English itself.

It is the grave dilemma of the human race that our terminally sinful condition is inherited by our children. Their little bodies bear the curse even before they learn to speak. All humanity by birth is at odds with God. It is the great work of Christ to make us at one instead. (Get it? “At one”?) He allowed himself to be forsaken by his Father on the cross so that he might bring us back together.

This great atonement embraces the greatest of all paradoxes: Christ died to make us alive.

Time of Grace, “Grow Your Vocabulary” Bible Study in the free YouVersion Bible App

Who Doesn’t Believe in Atonement?

I’m reading a book called The Kneeling Christian, by “An Unknown Christian” written circa 1930s. It’s a basic guide on prayer for Christians. It’s available free as an ebook on Hoopla through your public library. An interesting quote caught my eye…

“Finally, I fell on my knees and asked God to forgive me my sins, but I would not say for Jesus’ sake,’ for I was Unitarian, and I did not believe in the atonement. In an agony of mind I kept praying, O God, forgive me my sins,’ but no answer came. At last, in desperation, I cried, O God, for Christ’s sake forgive my sins.’ Then I found peace at once.”

“An infidel judge”, influenced by D.L. Moody (1837-1899), p.42

The Unitarian church stemmed from the Congregationalist who stemmed from the Reformed church. Seems like they reformed themselves right out of believing one of the truths of Christianity: the atonement of sins through Jesus Christ.

It’s sad to think that there are many people who called themselves “Christian” — thought they had it right — but they are in hell — wondering what went wrong. The thing is that they will never know. Why? Because hell is the furthest away from God that you can possible get.

Jesus told us…

22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

Matthew 7:22-23 NLT

John wrote…

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.

1 John 2:1-3 NLT

The Catholic Pope seems to take verse 2 literally. Yes, Jesus came to take away the sins of the world, but each person has to acknowledge that for themselves. Until you call on Jesus to forgive your sins, like that Unitarian judge did, you’re headed for hell. That’s your destination when you die or you are left behind in the Rapture (whichever comes first.)

Being with God

The whole concept of atonement comes from the book of Exodus where God is instructing Moses on how to build the Ark of the Covenant….

A replica of the Ark of the Covenant
(CC BY-SA 3.0)

17 “Then make the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—from pure gold. It must be 45 inches long and 27 inches wide. 18 Then make two cherubim from hammered gold, and place them on the two ends of the atonement cover. 19 Mold the cherubim on each end of the atonement cover, making it all of one piece of gold. 20 The cherubim will face each other and look down on the atonement cover. With their wings spread above it, they will protect it. 21 Place inside the Ark the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, which I will give to you. Then put the atonement cover on top of the Ark. 22 I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel.”

Exodus 25: 17-22 NLT

Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement

In Leviticus 23, God then gives Moses instructions on celebrating the Day of Atonement, known by the Jews as Yom Kippur — every year.

28 Do no work during that entire day because it is the Day of Atonement, when offerings of purification are made for you, making you right with the Lord your God.

Leviticus 23:28 NLT

They had to do this every year and many Orthodox Jews still do. What they don’t get is that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, was the sacrificial lamb who died taking all our sins away once and for all time! Jesus and ONLY Jesus is the atonement for our sins so we could be made “right with the Lord your God”. We are made “one with God”!

We’ll get into more detail on exactly what that means when we cover Jesus’ prayer for his believers tomorrow.

For now, think about it. Yesterday, I asked you to consider Paul’s command to “examine yourself” — is your faith genuine? Are you one with God? And it’s between you and God. No church, ritual or priest has to help you get there.

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace and Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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