The Efficacy of the Atonement
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Atonement For Penalty at the Cross & its Application in the Most Holy Place
Introduction>The larger context of this “benefits of the atonement” statement begins on page 251 of Early Writings: “Jesus sent His angels to direct the minds of the disappointed Adventist Millerites to the most holy place, where He had gone to cleanse the sanctuary and make a special atonement for Israel”.
Then, page 253: “As the priest entered the most holy once a year to cleanse the earthly sanctuary, so Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and thus to cleanse the sanctuary”.
It is more than difficult to extract from these statements (and others) that the Atonement was made at the Cross only and that only its “benefits” summed up Christ’s work as High Priest. With a misapplication of one statement taken out of context that inferred that the atonement was completed at the Cross, the Protestant world was satisfied— but not the Adventist world
His death on Calvary provided the atonement; His high-priestly ministry makes application of the atonement to those who believe. As the representative head of a new kingdom, He at the throne of grace, is now claiming and preparing the citizens of that kingdom.
God's justice demands a penalty for the transgression of His will, and Christ's death was the penalty that is substituted for the sinner's just reward.
There are those however, who believe the atonement has a much wider connotation. They fully agree with those who stress a completed atonement on the cross in the sense of an all-sufficient, once-for-all, atoning
sacrifice for sin. They believe that nothing less than—this took place on the cross of Calvary.
They believe, however, that in the ancient typical sanctuary service other aspects of the atonement are brought to light. In the morning and evening sacrifice they see sacrificial atonement provided for all men (Ex. 29:38-42). In the sinner's own personal offering they see sacrificial atonement appropriated by the individual (Lev. 4:31). Then came the grand climax on the Day of Atonement—day of judgment—when sin was definitely and finally dealt with. These ancient services, they believe, were all typical of the work of Christ. The morning and evening sacrifices and the individual offerings for sin pointed forward to the Saviour's sacrifice on Calvary's cross. The ministry of the priest in these services pointed forward to the high priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, where He applies the benefits of the atoning sacrifice to the individual sinner. Then the Day of Atonement services, they believe, pointed forward to the work to be accomplished in what they call the Investigative judgment which eventually culminates in the final obliteration of iniquity at the close of the millennial period.
Some of our earlier Seventh-day Adventist writers, believing that the word "atonement" had a wider meaning than many of their fellow Christians attached to it, expressed themselves as indicating that the atonement was not made on the cross of Calvary, but was made rather by Christ after He entered upon His priestly ministry in heaven. They believed fully in the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of men, and they believed most assuredly that this sacrifice was made once for all and forever, but they preferred not to use the word "atonement" as relating only to the sacrificial work of Christ at Calvary. We repeat, they believed as fully as we do that the sacrificial work of our blessed Lord on Golgotha's hill was full and complete, never again to be offered, and that it was done once and for all. Their concept was that the sacrifice of Jesus provided the means of the atonement, and that the atonement itself was made only when the priests ministered the sacrificial offering on behalf of the sinner. Viewed in this light, it will be seen that the question after all is a matter of definition of terms. Today, not meeting the same issues that our earlier writers had to meet, we believe that the sacrificial atonement was made on the cross and was provided for all men, but that in the heavenly priestly ministry of Christ our Lord, this sacrificial atonement is applied to the seeking soul.
Stressing this wider concept, however, in no way detracts from the full efficacy of the death of the Son of God, once for all for the sins of men.
Thus was carried on the type of that heavenly work which is to decide the eternal destiny of every soul that has ever lived upon the earth. In type and shadow the confessed sins of Israel had been transferred to the sanctuary during all the year; the cleansing of the sanctuary was the removing of those wins. "It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these (the blood of animals) but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." (The precious blood of Christ) (Heb 9:23).
It could not be possible that the books of heaven will always hold the records of sin, or that Christ will always bear the sins of the world. As the typical work was performed at the close of the year, so the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary will take place near the end of Christ's priestly work. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary necessitates an examination of the records— an investigative judgment.
In the type, after the high priest had finished the work within the sanctuary on the day of atonement, he came forth bearing the sins of all Israel, and placed them upon the head of the scapegoat. The scapegoat had no part in reconciling the people to God. The work of reconciling was all ended (Lev. 16:20) when the scapegoat was brought forward to act his part in the service. The only work of the scapegoat is to act as a vehicle to carry the sins of the righteous into the "land of separation."
The term "scapegoat" has become a synonym of an evil one. Azazel, the Hebrew rendering of scape goat, is a proper name, and is understood to represent the devil. When our High Priest has finished His work in the heavenly sanctuary, He will place all the sins of the righteous, which He has borne thus far, upon the head of Satan, (Ps. 7:16) the instigator of sin. Satan will then be left upon the desolate earth, (Jer. 4:23-27; Zech. 1:2,3) a land not inhabited, for one thousand years. At the end of this time he will be loosed for a season and then burned to ashes in the fires of the last day. (Rev. 20:9,10, Mal. 4:1-3, Eze 28:18,19)
In the type, after the high priest had placed the sins of Israel upon the head of the scapegoat, he left the robes worn while officiating as high priest in the sanctuary, and put on other garments, and began a work in the court. He had the bodies of the animals whose blood had been carried into the sanctuary taken without the camp and burned. At the close of the day, ashes were the only thing to be seen of the sin-offerings.
Our High Priest lays aside His priestly garments, and clad as King of kings He rides forth a might Conqueror to "gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire." (Matt. 13:41,42) Christ comes to set in order the antitypical court— this earth; and when the great antitypical day of atonement ends, nothing will remain that will in any way be a reminder of sin, except the ashes under the feet of the righteous. (Mal. 4:3)
SUMMARY>Adventist understanding of the atonement leads us to recognize at least four aspects of the theme, which, taken together, round out the full picture:
1. "Provisional atonement"- made for all the world by the death of Christ on the cross. As the world's Saviour He restored the whole race into favor with God and at the same time secured the universe against the possibility of future rebellion.
2. "Applied atonement"- through the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary; effective for every soul who accepts this divine provision; The(High Priest) shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel: This blood was applied to the mercy seat, but also the tabernacle and altar itself. See Lev.16:15-19
3. "Eliminative atonement"- when concluding His priestly ministry. Christ as Judge confirms the destiny of every soul, according to one's works, rendering to every man justly, including those who reject or disregard this divine provision. (This review of the books of record, or the investigative judgment, we believe began in 1844.)
4. "Retributive atonement"- when the sentence against sin and sinners will be executed, resulting in the final destruction of rebellion and in a cleansed universe.