The Sin Offering of Atonement

“He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” —I John 2:2

THE Gospel message speaks forth the good tidings that God has given his only begotten Son to take Adam’s place in death, which has made possible the wonderful statement of John in our theme text. This highly esteemed gift of God to mankind is the center of his eternal purpose to take out from among men a people for his name and through them, in association with Jesus, eventually reestablish the human race in perfection here on earth. The process by which this is accomplished is called the Sin Offering, a term with typical significance showing the manner and the sequence in which the value of Christ’s sacrificed life is used to carry out God’s grand objective for man’s salvation.

The doctrine of the Sin Offering has been shrouded with a certain amount of mystery and misunderstanding, and we believe that this should not be so, because it is simple; the truth itself is simple. We acknowledge that we are not justified by the extent of our understanding, but by the fullness of our faith. Nevertheless, clearer understanding enhances our appreciation and enlarges our faith in the Heavenly Father and his great divine plan of the ages. And it is in this spirit that this study of what we consider to be a very important doctrine of the truth is presented.

The word ransom signifies ‘a price to correspond’. Adam was disobedient and a sinner, and because of this he was condemned to death. (Gen. 2:17; 3:19) And inasmuch as he was the potential father of the human race, the sentence not only affected him, but all of his children—the human family. Before Adam sinned he was perfect and therefore the one chosen to be his Redeemer had to be correspondingly perfect. But there were no perfect human beings, since all inherited Adam’s condemnation and all had sinned. So God sent Jesus, who was holy, harmless, and separate from sinners (Heb. 7:26) to be the ransom for Adam and the entire human race. When, therefore, Jesus died on Calvary’s cross, a price sufficient had been laid down to redeem Adam and all his progeny. In the strictest sense of the term, the ransom-price thus provided was the great and only efficacious offering for sin that was acceptable to the Heavenly Father. However, this merit has not as yet been placed in the hands of justice on behalf of Adam and his race although it has been almost two thousand years since it was provided.

What did Jesus do with the merit of his own sacrifice? The Scriptures tell us that forty days after his crucifixion Jesus ascended to his Father. (Acts 1:1-9) The Apostle Paul states, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” (Heb. 9:24) The “us” spoken of in the text are the footstep followers of Jesus, the household of faith during the Gospel Age. This entire transaction was pictured in the Law. Jesus, speaking to the Jews, said, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.”—John 5:46

The writings of Moses, in the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, furnish us with a beautiful illustration of how the merit of Christ is used to accomplish the eternal purpose of the Heavenly Father. Here is described how the atonement for the sins of the Israelites was accomplished. We are told by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 13:10-13 that those ancient ceremonies were types or pictures—the reality of which is the sacrifice for sin by Jesus and his footstep followers during the Gospel Age. (Heb. 9:10-14) The humanity of these real sin offerings was pictured on the typical Day of Atonement in the animals; the new creature was pictured in the high priest. The Tabernacle itself was constructed with three compartments—the Court, the Holy, and the Most Holy. The Court represented justification, perfect humanity. The Holy pictured the spirit-begotten condition. The Most Holy well illustrated heaven itself—the presence of God.

It is important to remember then, in applying this type, that the Court of the Tabernacle represents our justified humanity: the Holy represents the spirit-begotten condition of those pictured in the Court; the Most Holy represents heaven itself, our resurrection hope.

There were three animals principally that were used on the typical Day of Atonement—a bullock, and two goats. Lots were cast by the high priest to determine which of the goats was to be called the Lord’s goat and subsequently used as a part of the Sin Offering. The remaining goat became the scapegoat. The first sacrifice on the Day of Atonement was the bullock. Aaron took the blood of the bullock, together with live coals from the altar in the Court, and his hands full of incense, into the Holy of the Tabernacle. There he placed the live coals upon the Golden Altar and crumbled the incense over the burning coals. Soon the compartment was filled with the smoke and aroma of the incense. But Aaron had to wait in the Holy until the smoke of the incense had penetrated into the Most Holy before he could enter into this compartment with the blood and sprinkle it upon the Mercy Seat. The Most Holy, we remember, represented the presence of God himself.

How beautifully this incense identifies with the perfection of our Lord Jesus and the manner in which his sacrifice was offered for the three-and-one-half years of his ministry. It was a sweet perfume unto God, for it showed the love and zeal with which his life, represented in the blood, was poured out. After the incense had penetrated into the Most Holy, the blood of the bullock was taken within and sprinkled upon the propitiatory, or lid of the Ark of the Covenant, which pictured God’s justice. This offering was for Aaron and his house. (Lev. 16:11) The Lord’s goat was then slain in the Court and its blood also was taken by the same high priest, Aaron, into the Most Holy and sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. The blood of the goat was handled exactly as was the blood of the bullock. This offering was for the people.—Lev. 16:16

Antitypically, the bullock represented our Lord Jesus, and his offering—the merit of his sacrificed life—was presented to God in heaven itself. The Apostle Paul, in Hebrews 9:24, states, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are [merely] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” The apostle is pointing back to the Tabernacle, when the high priest, on the Day of Atonement, sprinkled the blood of the bullock on the propitiatory. This was a picture or a figure of the reality.

It is well to notice that there was a difference between the statement of the Apostle Paul and the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus. Aaron applied the blood for himself and his house. The reason Aaron included himself was because he was an imperfect man. It was necessary, therefore, that an atonement be made for him also. This was not required for Jesus, because he was perfect. He was holy, harmless, and separate from sinners.

What did Paul mean when he stated that Jesus appeared in the presence of God for us? When Jesus died on the cross, wasn’t that enough to redeem us and the whole world of mankind? The Scriptures state he died for our sins, but “was raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25) In John 10:17 we read the words of Jesus, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” This does not mean that he is going to take his fleshly life back, because he had given that life for the life of the world. His purpose was to take the value of that life. He said, “No man taketh it from me.” In other words, he did not forfeit his life as Adam did. He said, “I lay it down of myself.” This was a willing offering by our Lord Jesus for “us” and the whole world of mankind. “He is a propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:2

In John 10:18 we read, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power [the right] to lay it down, and I have power [the right] to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” God gave him the authority to do this. When Jesus died on the cross, the ransom-price was provided. But God purposed that this offering had to be made in a certain place, just as Aaron had to offer the blood of the bullock, not in the Court, or the Holy, but in the Most Holy, representing heaven itself. This was the figure or picture of the true. After Jesus died on the cross, had he not later appeared in the presence of God according to the plan of God, the entire arrangement would have been to no avail. This was the offering for sin and it had to be accomplished exactly according to instructions. Jesus gave the only efficacious offering for sin, and he followed the Lord’s arrangement in presenting it.

It was not possible for Jesus to function as a priest and offer sacrifices here on earth, because under the Law which was in effect at the time, only the Aaronic priesthood was so authorized. In Hebrews 7:12 the apostle states, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” It is important to notice how Paul analyzes this statement. “For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe [he was not of the tribe of Levi, but the tribe of Judah], of which no man gave attendance at the altar.” No one from the tribe of Judah had any authority to make an offering for sin, and this included our Lord. In verses fourteen and fifteen we read, “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest.” In other words there had to be another priesthood—the Melchisedec order of which Jesus was the head—in order for him to make an acceptable offering unto God.—Ps. 110:4

In Hebrews 8:1-4 we read, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” Jesus, after his resurrection, assumed his role as the head of the heavenly priestly order of Melchisedec. Then Paul continues, “A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” Men made the first, the typical Tabernacle. But the Lord shaped a true tabernacle—the church of the Gospel Age: “For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the Law.”

When Jesus appeared on high in the presence of God for us, he appeared as a priest after the order of Melchisedec, because that offering had to be made in heaven. When we, as the footstep followers of Jesus, have completed our part in his offering (for it is in his offering that we have been invited to participate), the merit of his sacrifice which has been applied on our behalf must then be returned to God to be subsequently applied on behalf of the world of mankind.

It can be clearly seen that the ransom-price and the Sin Offering are closely related. Jesus provided the ransom-price when he died on the cross. It is impossible that any other person could share in this, for it was only he that was perfect and acceptable to God as a sacrifice. It was the ransom-price that Jesus presented to the Father for us. We received the full value of it, and by it we are justified—our humanity is reckoned just. Because of this we are made acceptable to God as a sacrifice, and we are invited to be sharers with Jesus in his sacrificial offering. We add nothing to it nor do we take anything from it, but by the experiences we have in our walk as footstep followers of Jesus, we are enabled to develop the fruit and graces of the Spirit which are necessary if we are to attain to the heavenly reward.

Our part in the sacrificial offering for sin was pictured in the Lord’s goat. We believe that all of the called, justified, and spirit-begotten of the church of the firstborn developed during the Gospel Age were represented in the two goats. When the high priest cast lots to see which would be the Lord’s goat, Jehovah was picturing the selection of the more than overcomers to be members of the church. And it is only these who are counted as being represented in the Lord’s goat and who become sharers in our Lord’s offering for sin. The remaining goat pictured the Great Company, who did not share in the offering for sin. The sacrifice of the Lord’s goat, which was accomplished in exactly the same manner as that of the bullock, pictured the church of the Gospel Age who faithfully endeavored to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 6:3, states, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” We were baptized into his death; we became sharers in his death, not our own. In verses four and five he continues, “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” When we indicated our willingness to participate in our Lord’s offering and were justified, we began laying that justified life down in sacrifice as Jesus did, and by doing this we were counted as sharing in his death. This is not our offering, but his offering. When the last member of the body of Christ has been offered up, then the same merit that justified these footstep followers of Jesus will be used by the heavenly Father on behalf of the remainder of the world of mankind.

Call to remembrance the simple statement that was made at the beginning of this study that described what the Sin Offering is—the Sin Offering pictures the manner and sequence in which the merit of the ransom sacrifice is applied. First it is applied on behalf of the church, and then on behalf of the world of mankind. The only way we share in it is that the value or merit is passed on to us first, in order that we might be reckoned as worthy to share in our Lord’s death. The church does not share in the ransom, which had already been given and accepted before the church was formed.

The sufferings of Christ are not the Sin Offering. In the Bible, suffering never atones for sin. It is only the blood that is efficacious for the cancellation of sin. (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22) The sufferings have only to do with proving and perfecting those who would be partakers of the Sin Offering. It is only those who overcome the world and its influences who become those typified by the Lord’s goat. Those who do not fully overcome are represented in the scapegoat and become a part of the Great Company.

In Hebrews 5:8,9, we read, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” His sufferings perfected Jesus as a new creature. In I Peter 2:21 we read, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps.” As we endeavor to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we are to meet the experiences the Heavenly Father permits in the same spirit as Jesus met his. If we do these things, we will develop in our spiritual minds the fruits and graces of the Spirit, without which we could not be acceptable as part of the offering for sin.

The Apostle Peter summarizes our lesson with these words, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”—I Pet. 5:10

Dawn Bible Students Association
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