The preaching of covenantal and victorious atonement is central to our success in preaching. So, if we can understand the theology behind this, it will produce great fruitfulness if you allow God’s Word to become alive within us. In Healing and the Atonement, we find that we can have complete confidence about our healing. Transformation Through Salvation taught us that entry into the family of God comes through the atonement, whereas salvation comes through Jesus’ resurrection.
Previously, propitiation resulted in the atonement that released the New Covenant.
We will now look at how the atonement brings in the New Covenant.
2. Defining Atonement
A. Hebrew for Atonement Means to Expiate, Forgive, Reconciliation.
You may have heard the term Yom Kippur from the war between Israel and its neighbours that started on the Day of Atonement in 1973. Yom Kippur means Day of Atonement.
Kippur means as follows:
כִּפֻּר ḵip̱ur; from 3722; expiation (only in plural): — atonement.
We saw that expiation is another word for propitiation and means He bears our guilt. Kippur comes from the verb and root word Kapar:
כָּפַר ḵâp̱ar; a primitive root; to cover (specifically with bitumen); figuratively, to expiate or condone, to placate or cancel: — appease, make (an atonement, cleanse, disannul, forgive, be merciful, pacify, pardon, purge (away), put off, (make) reconcile or reconciliation).
So we see from this word that atonement covers sin. It means to appease or pardon sin or reconcile between God and man.
So by following all the legal requirements of the law under the Old Covenant, we had our sins covered over. By living according to the New Covenant, we have our sins forgiven and forgotten.
B. Greek Means Reconciliation and Restoration of Divine Favour.
The word in Greek for Atonement is katallage:
καταλλαγή katallagē; from 2644; exchange (figuratively, adjustment), i.e. restoration to (the divine) favour: — Atonement, reconciliation(-ing)
The King James (KJV) and Authorised (AV) New Testament uses atonement only once:
And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.Romans 5:11
The KJV and AV use the word reconciliation (or to reconcile) everywhere else. Other versions use reconciliation instead of atonement for katallage.
C. We Receive the Atonement.
By receiving Jesus, we also accept reconciliation with God.
And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.Romans 5:11
We receive reconciliation with God through the atonement, but included in the definition is that we receive God’s favour. How does that happen? It happens because the New Covenant brings righteousness, and we will see that righteousness opens the way for the Spirit of God to come into our life.
3. God keeps and Honours Covenant
Summarising the Old Testament Revelation of God, we find:
- God is covenant-keeping, and therefore relational.
- He can change His mind except if it breaks covenant.
- Covenant is two-directional.
- God keeps the covenant that is active – now the New Covenant.
4. Defining Covenantal Atonement
The New Covenant is the legal document making us a son or daughter of God. It is our adoption paper.
5. Four Theological Views for the Atonement
A. Christus Victor View.
For the first 1000 years, Christus Victor was the standard view of the atonement. All the church fathers, including Augustine, taught this doctrine. The Eastern Orthodox Church still holds this view: Satan holds humankind captive, but Jesus paid a ransom to set us free. He redeems us.
B. Satisfaction View.
Anselm (c.1033-1109) believed God should not pay anything to set humanity free. Anselm lived in Europe, ruled by nobles and lords. And they had a law that commoners needed punishment if a man dishonoured another. He, therefore, proposed that the sentence of Jesus satisfied the honour of God. This incorrect view replaced the Christus Victor View during the Late Middle Ages and prepared the Penal Substitutionary View.
C. Penal-Substitutionary View
Penal Substitution View is the most common evangelical worldview, started by Calvin and established by Charles Hodge (1797-1878). It teaches because God is angry at sin, God pours His wrath over all humanity. God must pour out His wrath is because God is just and must punish sin.
Penal means that punishment is necessary for sin.
Substitution means that Jesus took our punishment in our place. Therefore Jesus becomes a wall between God and His wrath. We have looked at this under Propitiation- Mercy or Judgment to show this is not necessary.
People who believe in the goodness of God must reject this view because God is God, and God is love.
We also found in that same study that God pouring his wrath on His only Begotten Son is incorrect and is repulsive to logical thinking Christians and seekers alike.
D. Covenantal View of the Atonement
It is my opinion that this is the most biblically accurate view. It is also the view that has been instrumental in bringing many people to Christ, especially in Muslim environments. Because many cultures understand the concept of inheritance and covenant, it is easier for them to accept. Therefore, preaching the victory of the kingdom and demonstrations of the power of God through healing is very easy. Also, bringing them to understand their inheritance is very easy by God’s grace.
Covenantal atonement recognises that the primary atonement purpose was to reconcile man to God so that they may inherit the New Covenant. Before looking at atonement in detail, we need to remember God’s original intention.
6. Filtering Covenantal Atonement through the Original Intention of God
Most people will say that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Although true, that is not the original or main intention of God. When we think of atonement, we need to return to God’s original purpose, as discussed in Original Intention of God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,Ephesians 1:3-5
A. The Atonement Makes us Holy and Blameless.
The main reason that God created humankind was to have sons and daughters. And even before humankind sinned, it was always God’s plan to have sons and daughters who would be holy and blameless.
Furthermore, He wants to have sons and daughters who will enjoy their life on earth and eternal life. Once we have grasped this, we will see that there are considerable advantages in walking a life without sin- which is possible through the atoning work of Jesus AND walking in the Spirit.
The act of making us righteous comes through atonement. And it is this righteousness that allows the Holy Spirit to enter us.
B. The New Covenant Allows Sonship.
- So the atonement is reconciliation.
- The atoning death of Jesus brings in the New Covenant, and
- the New Covenant brings us into the family of God – both Jew and Gentile.
…and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.Hebrews 8:10,13
In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete…
Therefore covenantal atonement is the theology that focuses on sonship that comes through the New Covenant.
7. Day of Atonement
A. Part of the Old Covenant.
In the book of Hebrews, it states that the atonement sacrifices (bulls and goats) are part of the law:
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect…For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.Hebrews 10:1,4
Therefore, it is crucial to recognise that the Day of Atonement, the High Priest and the sacrifices were all part of the Old Covenant. They are not separate from the Old Covenant; they are part of it.
The Old Covenant is not part of the Atonement or the Day of Atonement. On the contrary, the Atonement and the Day of Atonement is part of the Old Covenant.
B. Jesus’ Sacrifice is Part of the New Covenant.
We need to stop and think about this because this is very important to understand. It is a “Selah” moment. Why? Because people have put the sacrifice of Jesus as more important than the New Covenant His sacrifice brought in.
On the contrary, we need to see that the sacrifice brought in the New Covenant and is the reason why Jesus died. Therefore Jesus sacrifice is part of the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not part of Jesus’ sacrifice.
C. The High Priest.
The High Priest had to bring a sin offering for himself because even though he was the high priest, being human, he still sinned.
“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.Leviticus 16:6
But now Jesus is the High Priest, who did not have to bring a sin offering for Himself as He never sinned.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.Hebrews 4:15
D. Two Goats.
So in the Old Testament, two goats were required to make atonement- on the Day of Atonement. The high priest would slaughter one goat, the other sent out into the wilderness as the scapegoat.
He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat.Leviticus 16:7
E. Sin Offering.
But The High Priest only killed one of the goats.
And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering.Leviticus 16:9
Once burnt, someone took the ashes outside the camp.
Jesus presented Himself as a sin offering, taking away the world’s sins and nailing them on the cross.
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.Ephesians 5:2
But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,Hebrews 10:12
Notice that the context is not by itself, as I have said above, the sacrifice links to the New Covenant in the following few verses in Hebrews:
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.Hebrews 10:14-16
F. Jesus Death Released the New Covenant, and Stopped all Further Sacrifice.
For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.Hebrews 9:16-17
Just as an inheritance is only passed onto the children once the parents have died and the will (testament) read, so it is with the New Covenant- Jesus had to die for the New Covenant to come into being.
The other goat was to have hands laid on it by the high priest, and then it would be released into the wilderness to take away the sins, transgressions and iniquities of the people.
“And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.Leviticus 16:20-21
And Jesus fulfilled this requirement when He bore our iniquities and sicknesses as the day of Atonement scapegoat So this happened to fulfil Isaiah’s prophesy in Isaiah 53 -as Peter says:
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.1 Peter 2:24
Therefore, covenantal atonement is not new as the Old Covenant had Atonement Covenantal Atonement under the New Covenant is superior because the covenant is superior.
8. The Joining of the Two Goats Together in Jesus
So as we have seen, there are two goats required. The high priest sacrificed one, and then the scapegoat had to be sent out into the wilderness by the ‘hand of a suitable man’, And that is what happened with Jesus.
A. The High Priest Sentenced Him to Death as the Sin Offering.
Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?”Matthew 26:65-66
They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”
B. The Hand of a Suitable Man (Simon) Sent Him Outside the Camp as the Scapegoat
Remember how they had to find a suitable man to take the scapegoat out into the wilderness?
In the Old Testament, it was not the high priest himself. Likewise, in the New Testament, we see the fulfilment of the law’s requirements come through the man Simon the Cyrene.
And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified. Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull,Matthew 27:31-31
C. Both Atonement Goats Go Outside the Camp.
Not only the scapegoat goes outside the camp, but the sacrificial goat was also!
For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.Hebrews 13:11-13
Therefore Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly as the atonement, and because He died, the atonement brings in a New Covenant – covenantal atonement in action.
9. You Die with Christ – Covenantal atonement
For a closer look at this, please study Believer’s Victory Over Sin
A. The Sin Nature is Done Away With, You are no Longer a Sinner.
or if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over HimRomans 6:5-10
10. Jesus’ Atoning Work
So we have seen that Jesus was the perfect sin-offering goat and the scapegoat. When He bore our sins into the wilderness and died for our sins.
But what happened at that point?
- Jesus reconciled us to God.
- It means that we have no more guilt or shame.
- He bore our sins and sickness away into the wilderness and nailed them to the cross.
- We are now dead to sin.
- The law (Old Covenant) was nailed to the cross.
- The atoning death of Jesus ensures that the New Covenant comes into effect: our sins are remembered no more.
A. Who is atoned?
There is no atonement without propitiation, and therefore the atonement is for the one who believes in Jesus.
whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,Romans 3:25
B. Atonement brings in the New Covenant.
The atonement allows the New Covenant to work in us because the death of Jesus brings in the New Covenant.
For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.Hebrews 9:17
This scripture teaches us that because of Jesus’ atoning death, the Old Covenant died, and New Covenant was made available.
C. Jesus’ Atonement Inaugurates the New Covenant.
This next verse says that the Old Covenant was dedicated, and according to this teaching in Hebrews, the same applies for the New Covenant:
Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood.Hebrews 9:18
The word dedicated is only used twice in the Bible, in Hebrews related to the New Covenant. It is the word:
ἐγκαινίζω egkainizō; from 1456; to renew, i.e. inaugurate:
The second time this word is used:
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.Hebrews 10:16-19
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
Inaugurate means putting it into place for the first time. For example, the new President will be inaugurated on the 20th of January.
So the atonement inaugurates the New Covenant The Atonement brings in the New Covenant.
It is not just that we are atoned for, but what the atonement does inside our body. So let us look at that, as it is compelling.
D. What is Atoned?
Our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?1 Corinthians 3:16
The atonement is in our whole body, including our spirit, which Holy Spirit will renew once He comes inside you.
“And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat.Leviticus 16:20
11. New Covenant Now Works in Us
There is covenantal atonement when a person believes that Jesus died for their sins, sickness, and torments. Immediately the New Covenant comes into effect.
A. We are the Righteousness of Christ.
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”Hebrews 8:12
Jesus overcame sin and BECAME sin so that we BECOME the righteousness of God. That makes us as righteous as Jesus Christ.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.2 Corinthians 5:21
We give Him our sin, and He gives us His righteousness. This is the Great Exchange of the New Covenant.
B. Righteousness Opens the Way for the Holy Spirit to Enter the Body that Jesus Atoned:
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.Romans 8:10
It is because of righteousness, the Spirit of Life comes in
C. Holy Spirit Raised Jesus from the Dead, Holy Spirit Now Raises us from the Dead in the Same Manner.
Covenantal Atonement Summary
Covenantal atonement is a much more accurate representation of atonement than Penal Substitution or Satisfaction world views. It includes the Christus Victor view but is all-encompassing of Jesus’ work.
We will look at this and righteousness in the following teaching on being born again.
© Use by Permission Awakening Impact Ministries/Dr Neville van Eerten 2022