Thoughts on Atonement

Esther 4:10-12a (HCSB)
Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to tell Mordecai, “All the royal officials and the people of the royal provinces know that one law applies to every man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard and who has not been summoned — the death penalty. Only if the king extends the gold scepter will that person live.”

Esther 5:1-2 (HCSB)
On the third day, Esther dressed up in her royal clothing and stood in the inner courtyard of the palace facing it. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the royal courtroom, facing its entrance. As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the courtyard, she won his approval. The king extended the gold scepter in his hand toward Esther, and she approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

In the “Ancient Near East,” unless a person has been approved by the king to be in his presence, such a person would then be put to death. The same is true for God. Unless one has His approval (on His terms) to be in His presence, that person will die. Take this response from God when Moses had petitioned to see His face…

Exodus 33:18-23 (HCSB)
Then Moses said, “Please, let me see Your glory.”

He said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He answered, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.” The LORD said, “Here is a place near Me. You are to stand on the rock, and when My glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away, and you will see My back, but My face will not be seen.”

This is why we see accounts like these (below) in the Bible; where we read about people who are absolutely stunned when they realize that they are not dead… even though they had just been in God’s presence:


Genesis 16:7-14 (HCSB)
The Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.”

Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “You must go back to your mistress and submit to her mistreatment.” The Angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.”

Then the Angel of the LORD said to her:
You have conceived and will have a son.
You will name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard your cry of affliction.
This man will be like a wild donkey.
His hand will be against everyone,
and everyone’s hand will be against him;
he will live at odds with all his brothers.

So she called the LORD who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the One who sees me?” That is why she named the spring, “A Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” It is located between Kadesh and Bered.


Genesis 32:24-30 (HCSB)
Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that He could not defeat him, He struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip. Then He said to Jacob, “Let Me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.”

“What is your name?” the man asked.

“Jacob,” he replied.

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” He said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked Him, “Please tell me Your name.”

But He answered, “Why do you ask My name?” And He blessed him there.

Jacob then named the place Peniel, “For I have seen God face to face,” he said, “and I have been delivered.”


Judges 6:11-24 (HCSB)
The Angel of the LORD came, and He sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was threshing wheat in the wine vat in order to hide it from the Midianites. Then the Angel of the LORD appeared to him and said: “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

Gideon said to Him, “Please Sir, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened? And where are all His wonders that our fathers told us about? They said, ‘Hasn’t the LORD brought us out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.”

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and deliver Israel from the power of Midian. Am I not sending you?”

He said to Him, “Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”

“But I will be with you,” the LORD said to him. “You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.”

Then he said to Him, “If I have found favor in Your sight, give me a sign that You are speaking with me. Please do not leave this place until I return to You. Let me bring my gift and set it before You.”

And He said, “I will stay until you return.”

So Gideon went and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from a half bushel of flour. He placed the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot. He brought them out and offered them to Him under the oak.

The Angel of God said to him, “Take the meat with the unleavened bread, put it on this stone, and pour the broth on it.” And he did so.

The Angel of the LORD extended the tip of the staff that was in His hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire came up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the Angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.

When Gideon realized that He was the Angel of the LORD, he said, “Oh no, Lord GOD! I have seen the Angel of the LORD face to face!”

But the LORD said to him, “Peace to you. Don’t be afraid, for you will not die.” So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it Yahweh Shalom. It is in Ophrah of the Abiezrites until today.

Manoah and his wife…

Judges 13:1-24a (HCSB)
The Israelites again did what was evil in the LORD’S sight, so the LORD handed them over to the Philistines 40 years. There was a certain man from Zorah, from the family of Dan, whose name was Manoah; his wife was unable to conceive and had no children. The Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “It is true that you are unable to conceive and have no children, but you will conceive and give birth to a son. Now please be careful not to drink wine or beer, or to eat anything unclean; for indeed, you will conceive and give birth to a son. You must never cut his hair, because the boy will be a Nazirite to God from birth, and he will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.”

Then the woman went and told her husband, “A man of God came to me. He looked like the awe-inspiring Angel of God. I didn’t ask Him where He came from, and He didn’t tell me His name. He said to me, ‘You will conceive and give birth to a son. Therefore, do not drink wine or beer, and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite to God from birth until the day of his death.’”

Manoah prayed to the LORD and said, “Please Lord, let the man of God you sent come again to us and teach us what we should do for the boy who will be born.”

God listened to Manoah, and the Angel of God came again to the woman. She was sitting in the field, and her husband Manoah was not with her. The woman ran quickly to her husband and told him, “The man who came to me today has just come back!”

So Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he asked, “Are You the man who spoke to my wife?”

“I am,” He said.

Then Manoah asked, “When Your words come true, what will the boy’s responsibilities and mission be?”

The Angel of the LORD answered Manoah, “Your wife needs to do everything I told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine or drink wine or beer. And she must not eat anything unclean. Your wife must do everything I have commanded her.”

“Please stay here,” Manoah told Him, “and we will prepare a young goat for You.”

The Angel of the LORD said to him, “If I stay, I won’t eat your food. But if you want to prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the LORD.” For Manoah did not know He was the Angel of the LORD.

Then Manoah said to Him, “What is Your name, so that we may honor You when Your words come true?”

“Why do you ask My name,” the Angel of the LORD asked him, “since it is wonderful.”

Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered them on a rock to the LORD, and He did a wonderful thing while Manoah and his wife were watching. When the flame went up from the altar to the sky, the Angel of the LORD went up in its flame. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell facedown on the ground. The Angel of the LORD did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the Angel of the LORD.

“We’re going to die,” he said to his wife, “because we have seen God!”

But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had intended to kill us, He wouldn’t have accepted the burnt offering and the grain offering from us, and He would not have shown us all these things or spoken to us now like this.”

So the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson.


When the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, they were given very precise instructions regarding God’s presence among them. In order for God to dwell in their camp, He had them create a space for Him. That space was the tabernacle. It was to sit in the center of their camp and it was to be constructed (along with everything that was in it… Exodus 35:4-38:31), in a very precise manner. Not only was its design and its contents’ design incredibly detailed, but only a certain tribe (the Levites) was permitted to pack it up with its contents and carry it, whenever God had decided that it was time for the Israelites to move on…

Numbers 1:50-51 (HCSB)
Appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, all its furnishings, and everything in it. They are to transport the tabernacle and all its articles, take care of it, and camp around it. Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever it is to stop at a campsite, the Levites are to set it up. Any unauthorized person who comes near it must be put to death.

This was no joking matter. Later in David’s day, when the tabernacle was no longer but the ark was still around (which was part of the tabernacle’s contents), we see an example of what happens when God’s instructions are not followed precisely with regards to its handling…

2 Samuel 6:1-9 (HCSB)
David again assembled all the choice men in Israel, 30,000. He and all his troops set out to bring the ark of God from Baale-judah. The ark is called by the Name, the name of Yahweh of Hosts who dwells between the cherubim. They set the ark of God on a new cart and transported it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the cart and brought it with the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on the hill. Ahio walked in front of the ark. David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of fir wood instruments, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.

When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it because the oxen had stumbled. Then the LORD’S anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God. David was angry because of the LORD’S outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place an Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is today. David feared the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”

This rhetorical question by David is important because the ark represented God’s presence. This scene showed that unless certain protocols were followed exactly as to how God had prescribed (for the things which represented His presence), it meant death. That’s why David asked what he did.

So, where is the answer to David’s question found?

It was already answered in Leviticus several hundred years earlier…

Leviticus 16:2-3a (HCSB)
The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he may not come whenever he wants into the holy place behind the veil in front of the mercy seat on the ark or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud above the mercy seat. “Aaron is to enter the most holy place in this way…”

God then goes on to describe to Moses in detail (Leviticus 16:3-34), about how someone might be able to be in His presence… atonement.

The interesting thing about Leviticus 16 is that it is not about how a person might become perfected as a result of an atoning sacrifice. Salvation is not part of the atonement equation. Atonement was only about the means by which one could come into God’s presence without dying. In other words, Leviticus 16 provides the prescription for an annual cleansing, which kept one from dying because they were near God. And not just for the people, but also for the tabernacle itself, which also became defiled during the year as a result of it being amongst sinful people. It was a yearly, decontamination reset of both the tabernacle and the Israelites. An annual ritual which needed to be performed so that God could continue to remain in that space, yet the people not die…

Leviticus 16:29-34 (HCSB)
“This is to be a permanent statute for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month you are to practice self-denial, and do no work, both the native and the foreigner who resides among you. Atonement will be made for you on this day to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must practice self-denial; it is a permanent statute. The priest who is anointed and ordained, to serve as high priest in place of his father will make atonement. He will put on the linen garments, the holy garments, and purify the most holy place. He will purify the tent of meeting and the altar and will make atonement for the priests and all the people of the assembly. This is to be a permanent statute for you, to make atonement for the Israelites once a year because of all their sins.” And all this was done as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is why people like Hagar, Jacob, Gideon, and Manoah and his wife, were all so shocked that they were still alive after being in the presence of God. Without atonement for their sin, they still lived! (Despite having just been in the company of Yahweh.)


In the New Testament, we are shown how the sacrifice of Jesus parallels what is described in Leviticus 16…

Hebrews 9-10:20 (HCSB)
Now the first covenant also had regulations for ministry and an earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was set up, and in the first room, which is called the holy place, were the lampstand, the table, and the presentation loaves. Behind the second curtain, the tabernacle was called the most holy place. It contained the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which there was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. The cherubim of glory were above it overshadowing the mercy seat. It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.
With these things set up this way, the priests enter the first room repeatedly, performing their ministry. But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing. This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience. They are physical regulations and only deal with food, drink, and various washings imposed until the time of restoration.

But the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?

Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in force while the one who made it is living. That is why even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. For when every command had been proclaimed by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll itself and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the covenant that God has commanded for you. In the same way, he sprinkled the tabernacle and all the articles of worship with blood. According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves to be purified with better sacrifices than these. For the Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that He might now appear in the presence of God for us. He did not do this to offer Himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. Otherwise, He would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is appointed for people to die once — and after this, judgment — so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, once purified, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, as He was coming into the world, He said:

You did not want sacrifice and offering,
but You prepared a body for Me.
You did not delight
in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings.
Then I said, “See —
it is written about Me
in the volume of the scroll —
I have come to do Your will, God!”

After He says above, You did not want or delight in sacrifices and offerings, whole burnt offerings and sin offerings (which are offered according to the law), He then says, See, I have come to do Your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.

Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. He is now waiting until His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. For after He says:

This is the covenant I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws on their hearts
and write them on their minds,

He adds:

I will never again remember
their sins and their lawless acts.
Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh)…

Jesus made it so that anyone can approach God to ask Him for forgiveness of their sins. Christ’s atoning work of the sacrifice of Himself provided access into God’s presence. Which, at the time of His death on the cross, was no longer the tabernacle, but a special space in the temple (in Jerusalem)… the most holy place. This account in Mark symbolically points to the fact that God was now accessible because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross…

Mark 15:37-39 (HCSB)
…Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God’s Son!”

Entering Rest

Even though Christ’s atonement has an unlimited quality about it (meaning, God is now accessible for repentance and faith to everyone because of it), it does not mean that salvation is therefore universal to everyone. What remains limited is the resurrection to life. Take the centurion in the above reference in Mark. Not everyone responds to Christ the way that he did.

Think of it this way:

Just as the Israelite could gain access to God by atonement for sin according to the stipulations prescribed in Leviticus, such did not mean that the Israelite had entered God’s rest by it. God’s rest is only enterable by belief.

Earlier in Hebrews, the writer made this point (which I bolded and underlined below)…

Hebrews 3:7 – 4:7 (HCSB)
…as the Holy Spirit says:

Today, if you hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
and saw My works for 40 years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation
and said, “They always go astray in their hearts,
and they have not known My ways.”
So I swore in My anger,
“They will not enter My rest.”

Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. As it is said:

Today, if you hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it really all who came out of Egypt under Moses? And who was He provoked with for 40 years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And who did He swear to that they would not enter His rest, if not those who disobeyed? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Therefore, while the promise to enter His rest remains, let us fear that none of you should miss it. For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith, (for we who have believed enter the rest), in keeping with what He has said:

So I swore in My anger,
they will not enter My rest.

And yet His works have been finished since the foundation of the world, for somewhere He has spoken about the seventh day in this way:

And on the seventh day
God rested from all His works.

Again, in that passage He says, They will never enter My rest. Since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news did not enter because of disobedience, again, He specifies a certain day — today — speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated:

Today, if you hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts.

None of the annual atonements prescribed in Leviticus ever brought any of the Israelites the rest described above, during the 40 years that they wandered in the desert. That’s not the purpose of atonement. Again, atonement is what makes an audience with God possible, so that He can then be petitioned with repentance and faith. Without the atoning work of Christ, God would not be accessible. His Son, Jesus provided that door…

John 10:9a (HCSB)
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved…


Not to be redundant, but the point is worth repeating… Accessibility to God alone is not enough. Just because God is now accessible by Christ’s work, it does not mean that people will just go to Him on their own, devoid of being exposed to the “good news.” Just as the writer of Hebrews had talked about above, they need to “HEAR” His voice (through evangelism) and “NOT HARDEN” their hearts… “TODAY”! What Paul wrote about, regarding his unbelieving Jewish brothers, is also true for everyone else…

Romans 10:14 & 17 (HCSB)
But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? …So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

Christ must be talked about. Who He is and what He did MUST be shared. Everyone needs to hear about how God has loved them…

John 3:16-18 (HCSB)
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.”

May His voice be heard. And as a result, may the hearer then gain the desire to take advantage of God’s love (Christ’s atonement), and then enter into His presence with belief, so that they can find rest…

Godspeed, to the brethren!

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