The Spirit of the Word


     "For the Law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices, which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect; for then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins; but in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sin every year; for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins, wherefore when He (Jesus) cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me; in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou has had no pleasure, then said I, lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God." (Heb. 10:1-7). This is Paul's comment on the typical character of the law of the atonement; it was a "shadow," only a shadow, not "the very image," of "good things to come;" those "good things" began to be realized when Christ came to do God's will; then the real purpose of the atonement began to appear; and that purpose Paul indicates here as being to "take away sins," which the blood of bulls and goats could not do. Let us turn to the law and see if we can get a clear understanding of this subject.

     A full account of the ceremonies of the Atonement day will be found in Lev. 16. I shall not attempt to explain in detail the typical significance of all these ceremonies; and for two reasons. First, I have not now the time, nor in the present number the space to fully discuss all the particulars of this subject as I should wish. Second, I am not sure that I understand the true significance of all the details of this type; of the general meaning of it I have no doubt, and this general meaning I wish to consider in the present article, leaving the discussion of some of the details to a future time.

     The first fact to which I wish to call attention is that there is nothing said in all this legal ceremony of the penalty of sin; let this fact be particularly noted and well considered. In all the "orthodox" creeds and man-made theories of the atonement the great effort always is to show how through Christ's sacrifice and death the sinner may escape the penalty of sin. I have already shown in previous articles on this subject that this view is wholly wrong; now I would call attention to the fact that the law bears me out in this position. Here is one of the principle sources of error in the common view of this doctrine. With the majority of persons the prominent thought is, "I have sinned; there is a just and holy God who punishes sin; how shall I escape this punishment?" This is about as high as most men get in their moralizing, and their theory of the atonement is built upon this basis. Let it be further noticed in this connection that the monstrous doctrine of endless torment necessarily leads to this view of the atonement; if that is the punishment of sin then it must be that the main purpose and work of the atonement is to save man from that fearful doom. The punishment of endless, hopeless misery is so unspeakably awful, overshadowing and dwarfing to insignificance all other considerations that it is no wonder, in fact it is inevitable, that the question, how to escape such an appalling sentence, should be made the one central and most prominent feature in the theory of the atonement held by those who believe in this unscriptural, unreasonable and God-dishonoring dogma.

     If endless torment is the penalty of sin, then of course if anyone is to be saved, the sinner must not suffer that penalty at all; for if he does, it is to him total and absolute ruin without any possibility of recovery or deliverance; and yet the theory requires that someone must suffer this penalty in order to vindicate the outraged majesty of the law, and to satisfy the inflexible justice of God, hence arises the necessity of substitution; man the guilty sinner, if he is to be saved at all, cannot suffer this penalty; someone must suffer it; hence the theory absolutely requires that an innocent victim should suffer in man's stead; and yet this theory is made still more absurd and contradictory, and perfectly baffling to all reason and common sense by the fact that we are taught that after all Christ does not suffer the penalty of the sinner's transgression, but something else which is accepted as, in some way, equivalent to that penalty. Thus error leads to error; falsehood is built upon falsehood; absurdity upon absurdity; and the result is; "Orthodoxy."  Now when one escapes from this great theological lie of endless torment, then, and not until then, can he begin to consider some other view of the atonement than that which makes the innocent Jesus suffer the penalty of sin in the guilty sinner's stead. I have already abundantly shown that this substitutionary theory of the atonement has not legitimately a singly passage of scripture to support it. There is not a passage in the Bible that teaches that Christ died to satisfy the justice of God, in the sense in which substitutionists claim. There is not one that teaches that he suffered the punishment of sin in the place of the guilty. The atonement that Christ made is not a provision whereby man may escape the punishment of sin. God's punishments are always good and for the benefit of the one punished. and it would be doing the sinner an injury to shield him from those punishments, if such a thing were possible. The atonements the means provided for man's deliverance from sin, not from its penalty. "Christ came TO PUT AWAY SIN by the sacrifice of himself." God can remit the penalty in whole or in part if he pleases without any sacrifice or substitute whatever. He has full pardoning power, like an earthly potentate; there is no such senseless rigidity to God's law that, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, He cannot control their execution, and modify their effect if there is any need of it. As a matter of fact, however, there is never any need to change his law or to modify the penalty, because "the law of the Lord is perfect," and the chastenings of the Lord are good; no penalty is attached to any of God's laws that is not for the blessing of his creatures in the end. But God has made provision whereby man may reach a position where he can perfectly keep this perfect law, and hence though the penalty will still be there he will never become amenable to it, because he will never transgress the law. The reason why man cannot keep God's law now is because he is depraved, weakened, benighted and diseased by sin; man must be "delivered from this bondage of corruption" before he can "walk with God" as Enoch did, and the purpose of the atonement is this deliverance from sin. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood he likewise took part in the same; [for what purpose?] that through death he might destroy him that had the power that is the devil, and deliver all them  [see New Version*] who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Is not this a worthier and higher purpose for the atonement than that of releasing the sinner from his well-merited and needed chastisement? What man needs is deliverance, not from the punishment of sin, but from sin itself, and this is what Christ, or rather "God in Christ," does for us in the atonement; and this great and glorious purpose of the atonement is clearly indicated in the law, the "shadow of good things to come." There is not in this chapter or anywhere else where the subject is referred to, the least hint, or the most distant reference to the idea that the atonement was a means whereby the children of Israel were to be freed from the penalty of any broken law, or released from merited punishment; if this is the purpose of the atonement as taught in the New Testament then it is surely a most remarkable thing that there is not the slightest allusion to any such thing in the typical atonement under the law. The law and "orthodoxy" are certainly at variance in this respect, but "the law and the testimony" (Isa. 8:20) are in perfect accord in this as in all things else. I have abundantly shown the import of the latter and now I call attention to the fact that the former is full harmony therewith.

     What then was the purpose of the atonement under the law? Just exactly what was under the gospel, to put away sin. We are distinctly told that the bullock and the two goats were a "sin offering,"  that is to say they represented the sin that was to be "put away;" they did not represent the penalty, nor did they represent a substitute who was to receive the penalty in the place of the sinner, neither were they a gift to appease the one sinned against; but they represented the sin itself that was to be slain, destroyed and put away; the three animals were one sin offering, each one representing a different aspect of the same sin offering, and the anti-type of all three, Aaron's bullock, "the Lord's goat," and the "scape goat," is Jesus Christ; all the sacrifices find their fulfillment in the Lord Jesus. Now, if I err not, here is the key to the proper understanding of the atonement in the type or anti-type, in the law or the gospel, The victim represents the Sin. If we see this truth we shall readily understand that there is no need of the doctrine of substitution and no place for it in the atonement.  Let us notice how this is still further indicated in the law. A sin offering was one that was considered as representing the sin of the transgressor, and as being charged with that sin, hence it was unclean, and the carcass, after the blood had been poured out at the altar, was to be burned "without the camp" as an unholy thing unfit to come into the midst of God's people, and the person who performed this duty of burning the dead and rejected carcass was himself unclean and must remain so for a certain time and until he had performed certain ceremonies; thus the sin offering, representing the sin of the offender, was looked upon as polluted and polluting; this fact is brought out in aIl the sin offerings, but especially in connection with


     The Hebrew word here rendered scape goat is Azazel (see margin of Leviticus 16:8) which literally means Averter; the scape goat was the Averter, i.e., he averted or warded off calamity from the children of Israel by bearing away their sins; the only possible cause of trouble and suffering in God's universe is sin; when sin is removed from us, when we are separated from our sins then all calamity is averted, because all possible cause of calamity is removed, hence the live goat was the Averter because  it separated the children of Israel from all that could cause trouble and distress and thus averted, or warded off trouble and distress. "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess upon him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat,  and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities in a land not inhabited." Here is the type; is it not plan that the sin offering represented the sin of the people? And what was done to the sin offering, whether slain or sent away, represents what will ultimately be done with sin? Let it be remembered that the scape goat is only another phase of one and the same sin offering and the character of all the sin offerings will be plain; just as the sin offering was destroyed or put away forever, so sin is to be destroyed and put away forever. The result of the atonement under the law was deliverance from sins (verse 30;) "On that day shall the priest make an atonement for you to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sin before the Lord;" thus once a year they were legally reconciled ("set at-one," Acts 7:26) to God by being delivered, not from the penalty of their sins, but from the sins themselves. "But it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins," that was the type, only a "shadow of the good things to come," a "figure of the true," and yet a perfect shadow, a true figure, so that from the shadow we can clearly grasp the substance, from the figure we may understand "the heavenly things themselves." Now see how perfectly the anti-type corresponds to the type as indicated in such passages as the following.

     "The Lord hath made the iniquity of us all to meet on him," just as it did on the scape goat. (Isa. 3:6, margin).

     "Behold the Lamb of God which beareth away [like the scape goat again] the sin of the world." (John 1:29, margin).

     "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." (Heb. 9:28).

     "Who his own self bear our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24). He did not bear our penalty, the punishment of our sins as our substitute; but he bear our sins; in him our sins were destroyed; by him our sins were put away; "He was made SIN for us;" there is no more wonderful statement in the Bible than this. However, there is something dread and awful in it; the idea of a sinless person being made sin! He was not made a sinner or sinful; this could not be without destroying his character as the spotless lamb of God; but he was made sin itself; that hateful thing upon which God cannot look with the least degree of allowance. He was accursed (Gal. 3:13), and as an accursed and unclean thing he was carried without the camp and suffered as the dead, rejected sin offering, thus showing God's judgment on, and the final destiny of sin; it is a thing used in God's economy for a purpose (1-8-169) and when that purpose is accomplished it will come to an end, be utterly abolished, along with death and the grave, and God will be ALL IN ALL, or in other words, all things will be reconciled to Him. (Col. 1:20).

     Here then in general is the symbolical significance of the atonement as set forth in the Law, and here in brief is the manner of its fulfilment in Christ the great anti-type. The key to the understanding of the whole subject is to remember that the victim represents the sin; not the sinner, not the penalty, but the sin. If this fact is borne in mind, much misunderstanding and error will be avoided. In the type and in the anti-type sin is treated as though it were a tangible, real thing, and is killed, carried away and utterly destroyed clearly prefiguring the final result of redemption, "No more anything accursed." (Rev. 22:3, N.V., Margin).

i.e. New Version; refers to The English Revised Version of 1881-1885 (RSV)

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