Skip to content ↓

The Essential: Atonement

Resources Collection cover image

This is the thirteenth installment in a series on theological terms. See previous posts on the terms theology, Trinity, creation, man, Fall, common grace, sin, righteousness, faith, pride, election, and revelation.

Stated simply, atonement refers to the act by which someone or something is cleansed from sin.

The concept is first introduced in reference to the installation of the priesthood and the consecration of the tabernacle for Israel’s worship (see Exodus 29:35-37).

Atonement is then applied to the rest of the nation when God institutes the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) in Leviticus 16. This is the day every year when, through animal sacrifices and a scapegoat, the high priest would symbolically cleanse the priests and tabernacle from the defilement of sin, and then do the same for all the people of Israel.

As the storyline of Scripture progresses, we begin to hear of a greater atonement that God is preparing for his people, one that will fully and finally deal with sin and be eternally effective (see Ezekiel 16:59-63). We see in the New Testament that this sacrifice is the death of Jesus Christ.

The author of Hebrews links the death of Christ to the old covenant concept of atonement, and then shows how much greater Jesus’ sacrifice is:

Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

(Hebrews 10:11-14)

The glory of Christ’s atonement is that it is no longer limited to a particular nation (Israel) or location (the tabernacle) and neither is it merely symbolically represented through animal sacrifices. By his own blood Jesus has reconciled us to God genuinely and forever, and he holds out this reconciliation to all who trust in his sacrifice on their behalf.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (February 24)

    A La Carte: Wherever he leads, he’ll go / Britain’s loneliest sheep / Helping your teen with porn / How do the Arminian and Calvinist views of election differ? / Exposing the good in digital distractions / Kindle deals / and more.

  • Free Stuff Fridays (Coram Deo Pastors Conference)

    This week the blog and this giveaway are sponsored by the Coram Deo Pastors Conference. Dear brother pastor, In a spirit of prayerful expectation, I want to invite you to the Coram Deo Pastors Conference. This new event is hosted by Clearly Reformed (a new ministry I help to lead) and Christ Covenant Church (where…

  • The Kindness of God

    God’s Goodness in a Cruel World

    There is much to love and appreciate about our God, much for which we ought to give him praise and thanks. One of the attributes we may consider too seldom is his goodness, and as an aspect or component of his goodness, his kindness. And that is the subject of

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 23)

    A La Carte: Order, preparation, and the Spirit’s leading / Desecration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral / Why did God stigmatize the disabled? / Who would I be if I was happy? / 7 parenting errors that can influence adult children to leave the faith / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 22)

    A La Carte: Ice, wind, and unanswered prayers / Was it all a waste? / Prepping for the impending apocalypse / The best analogy for the Trinity / Getting to stop by woods on a snowy evening / Bible translation and AI / and more.

  • Like an iPhone

    Like an iPhone, Only Much More So

    Can I confess something to you? There’s one thing Aileen does that really bugs me. We will be talking together and enjoying one another’s company. But then, as we chat, I’ll hear the telltale buzz of her phone. And I can tell that I’ve lost her. I can see it in the look on her…