Atonement: Christ's Victory
The noun atonement involves the reparation for an offense or injury, especially the reconciliation of God and humankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus. As a verb, atone literally means "at one," as in the spirit of harmony between two previously estranged beings. However, we must not confuse this oneness with God as sharing his divinity. Jesus alone, as the only-begotten Son, shares the state of "at-one-ness" with God in this sense (John 3:16-18; 10:30).
The New Testament idea of atonement relates to the Old Testament theme of propitiation but also improves upon it. Propitiation accurately defines the Hebrew rites of animal sacrifice, because the Israelites did them to receive or regain God's favor. Leviticus, the portion of the Mosaic Law that God assigned to the Levitical priests, reads, "He shall do with the bull just as is done with the bull of sin offering; he shall do the same with this. The priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. He shall carry the bull outside the camp, and burn it as he burned the first bull; it is the sin offering for the assembly" (4:20-21). Furthermore, Jews observe the Day of Atonement (Hebrew: Yom Kippur; H3117, H3725) with extensive fasting, prayers, and synagogue liturgies. It is the most sacred day in the Hebrew calendar, and they grieve over their sins as a community repenting before God (Lev. 16:1-34; 23:26-32; Num. 29:7–11). As followers of Jesus, neither the Messianic Jews nor we Christian gentiles need to commemorate the Day of Atonement. The author of Hebrews wrote,
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices, there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. . . . it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (10:1-4, 10).
"Atone." Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2020.
"Atonement." Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2020.
My Jewish Learning, eds. "Yom Kippur 101." MyJewishLearning.com. New York: My Jewish Learning, 2020. https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/yom-kippur-101.
Nadler, Sam. Messiah in the Feasts of Israel. Charlotte: Word of Messiah Ministries, 2010.
"Propitiation." Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2020.