“Just as man is destined to die once and after that to face the judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.“1
During His life, He loved and taught and mended broken lives. Then He was nailed to a cross – the most brutal method of execution known in His day. But His death brought life to those who believed in Him.
For those who would forsake everything to follow Him, it became possible to have access to throne of heaven and to know God. Even now He is seated at the right hand of God where He is praying for us that we might know Him.
This man, of course, is Jesus Christ. His sacrificial death was prophesied in the Hebrew’s Book of Psalms long before He came on the scene.
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, “Here I am – it is written
about me in the scroll -
I have come to do your will, O God.“2
Most people living in the Western world are aware of the life of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. But how many, I wonder, really understand the deep significance of that death and how it affects them?
The Bible tells of the life of Jesus and His death on a cross. For many this is an accepted fact. But why did Jesus have to die this way? In order to understand this, we need to examine the nature of man.
According to the Bible, God created man in His own image – sinless and perfect. He placed men and women in the world and commanded them to fill the earth and subdue it. He gave them the fruit of every seed yielding tree for food. He commanded them to take dominion over every living thing. Man’s destiny from the beginning was to reign and rule with God.
But this perfect image was tainted early on – Satan, a fallen angel lurking in the disguise of a reptile, convinced the human race to rebel against God by disobeying the one commandment God had given them. In order to lure all mankind into sin, Satan cunningly appealed to the pride of life – “You will not surely die (if you disobey God); but you will be like God!“3
And this is the basic sin of man – to be his own god and to exalt his own will above God’s will. God had a perfect plan from the beginning. God gave man a perfect purpose – a destiny to rule the earth! A loving God made man and that man decided of his own will to turn away from Him.
Man was created in the image of God, but something happened when sin entered the world. The deliberate choice to sin spawned something insidious in man that has enslaved the human race ever since. Every descendant of Adam has inherited this disease; the law of sin and death has appeared in every person born of the line of Adam. This disease is known as SIN NATURE.
Sin nature is simply the desire to do your own thing. It is the idolatry of SELF – an inborn separation from God which continually works death into us. The only way to be reconciled with God is to somehow get rid of this sin nature.
The Adamic Nature
“This is the written account of Adam’s line:
“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female; at the time when they were created, he blessed them and called them ‘man.’ When Adam lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.“4
Notice that although God created man in His own likeness, when Adam had a son he was in his (Adam’s) own likeness, in his own image. Many people believe that we are all created in the image of God. This is not the case! We are all born into the image of Adam.
Only when we are born-again are we recreated into the image of God. This is why Jesus had to be born of a virgin; when Jesus was born, the line of Adam was broken. He was not born of Adam; He was born of God. Jesus did not have an adamic, sin loving nature ruling His life; He had a God-like, obedient nature.
So what is the nature of man?
“There is none righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one …
For all have sinned and have
fallen short of the glory of God.“5
The problem with man is that he is a sinner. Not only does he do sinful acts but he is the chief agent of evil in the world. It is impossible for man to change – not through psychology, not through the New Age movement, not through positive thinking – sin is inherent.
Sin is a part of your genetic code (so to speak). If you don’t believe this, just try to stop sinning! This, you will find, is more difficult than easy, because our very sin nature compels us to hellish deeds.
The Atonement – a covering for sin
When sin entered the world, there needed to be atonement.
Atonement is a theme that is repeated many times in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. Atonement in Hebrew is kaphar. It means literally – a covering. When Adam and Eve – the first man and woman mentioned in the Bible – first sinned, God provided a covering for their shame. God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. These animals were slaughtered and were substitutes for punishment.
All throughout the Old Testament the blood of animals was used for atonement. “For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.“6 The law’s penalty for sin was death. However, in God’s great love and mercy, He provided a substitute. The bloody sacrifice of animals became a “covering” for sin throughout the Old Testament.
Abel’s sacrifice was “more excellent” than Cain’s because the blood was shed from the best of his flocks. God’s warning to Cain, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must master it,” speaks of man’s problem of sin and God’s solution of atonement.
Noah became an heir because he alone of all the men of the earth had faith in God and knew of His atoning sacrifice. Noah built an ark which speaks to us of God’s atonement. The ark was the only vessel able to save him from God’s judgment on the world.
Noah covered the ark – inside and out – with pitch. It is interesting to note that the word translated “pitch” in Hebrew is phonetically identical to the word for atonement. The words used are kophar and kaphar. The pitch, the atonement, was designed to keep out the waters of judgment and to make Noah safe within. That is what the blood did also – it restrained the judgment of God from reaching the occupants of the ark, and made them safe in spite of the fact that God was destroying the world outside. 7
The same pattern is repeated over and over. Abraham met King Melchizedek and offered sacrifice. Later, he was even willing to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, but God spared him and in his place provided a male lamb with a crown of thorns.
Moses was given the design for the Tabernacle, an open tent where the priests of Israel were able to atone for the sins of the children of Israel day after day. These sacrifices were necessary but they were only a shadow of something greater to come. The blood of animals was an imperfect sacrifice (hardly a fitting substitute for a human being!) These were only types pointing to a perfect sacrifice made “once for all,” the blood of Jesus Christ the Great High Priest.
Jesus Christ: The Great High Priest
In the Old Testament, the blood is defined as the life of a man; the two are synonymous. Man must sacrifice his life, bear the penalty of his sin, and surrender himself entirely to God before God could dwell in him with His New Life.
The Tabernacle was an illustration for the Hebrew people pointing the way to a more perfect sacrifice – the body of Jesus Christ. Animal sacrifices were never able to clear the consciences of the worshippers. What man could not do for himself, the Lord Jesus, the Son of Man, did for him. He shed His blood, He gave His life in entire surrender to the will of God as a satisfaction of the penalty of sin.
Under the Old Covenant we see the blood of sheep, goats and bulls being shed day after day for the sins of the Hebrews. These were merely a reminder of sin. Under the New Covenant, however, we see Jesus Christ the Great High Priest who shed His blood for man while he was yet a sinner. This sacrifice was final, once for all, and it was able to cleanse us completely from all sin.
When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, the curtain in the Jewish temple was supernaturally torn in two.8 This signified that He had entered into the “Holy of Holies” which is in heaven. The New Covenant guarantees for us a High Priest, holy and blameless, who will always live to intercede for us.
The law of the Old Covenant and the atonement serve only to remind us of our sin; but Jesus came to take away our sin.
The Power in the Blood
At some point, you may have asked – “How could something that happened almost 2000 years ago possibly affect me today?” Does the Blood shed at Calvary, a hill in a distant country, many centuries ago still have power in the present day?
As we are dealing with spiritual things, it is necessary to let God birth this revelation in our hearts. It is impossible, with mere human thought, to fathom the mysteries of “the Holy of Holies” – God’s dwelling place in heaven – and few people have attempted understand these mysteries which are outlined in the Book of Hebrews.
We think of the shedding of the Blood of Jesus as a distant event, but it is present and real and it available to us today through the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Old Testament, the blood of a man was linked with the life and spirit of a man. So, in the New Testament, the Blood of Jesus is linked with His Eternal Life and Spirit.
The Blood and The Eternal Spirit are bonded together in the life of Christ. They are one. The shedding of His Blood was brought about by the Eternal Spirit and the Spirit lived and worked in that Blood. As a result, when the blood was shed it did not die and decay as a dead thing – No! The Blood was taken up into heaven when Jesus gave up His Eternal Spirit to the Father.
The Blood abides as a living reality – in “the Holy of Holies” – as it exercises its divine authority from heaven today. The Blood of Jesus abides as an eternal sacrifice for sin. Jesus Christ Himself entered the Holy of Holies once for all by the means of His own Blood. The Blood will manifest its power in us because the Eternal Spirit works in it and through it.
The Blood shed at Calvary does not merely “atone” for (cover) our sins. It does much more than that! The Blood alone possesses the power to cleanse us of our sins and enables us to serve the Living God. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.“9
Many people believe that Jesus died for their sins. This is true, but something more is required – Has the Blood of Jesus truly set you free from the law of sin and death? Have you experienced the Blood? Truly experienced it? – or is it just a legal acceptance – you believe but there has been no visible change in your life?
Many say that although we are redeemed by the Blood of Jesus, we still “sin every day in thought, word and deed.” This belief is a shallow view of the Atonement. God did not send His own Son to die for us as a mere “covering” for our sins. Although this is a great thing, He did much more than that!
Jesus Christ is not interested in forgiving you every single time you sin! He is more interested in breaking that horrible sin nature that controlled your life. If you think of yourself as merely a “poor, wretched sinner saved by grace,” then you have missed the point entirely! You have made Jesus Christ, the expressed image of the glory of God, into nothing more than a “better cow!”
Jesus did not die for your individual acts of sin – He died to break the power of sin nature in the lives of those who follow Him to the Cross. We must cease to think in terms of our individual acts of sin and concentrate instead on the revelation God has given to us in the Cross – God sent His own Son to die and break the power of sin – “once for all” – He is asking us to accept His forgiveness once for all, and to put away, to eradicate, to completely destroy the sin nature.
Jesus came to set us free from our sins not in our sins. If you haven’t experienced this today then you need not only to come to the Cross and look at it – but also get on it.
Have you done this?
How can I die? It is true that I cannot literally die on a cross to crucify my sin nature – so how can I be crucified with Christ? Dying to sin and self is accomplished through IDENTIFICATION. “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.“10
When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, I went up there with Him, not only my sins, but my whole life, my thoughts desires, emotions and will. When Jesus went into the tomb, I went in there with Him. I died to sin and self. But when Jesus rose from the dead – I rose from the dead! He gave me new life through the Spirit.
“Therefore walk after the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the sinful nature … Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.“11
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.“12
All this is accomplished through identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us what to do with the works of the flesh – mortify them, put them to death, completely destroy them! It is vital that this be understood. The Bible also tells us of the consequences of treating the Blood of the New Covenant as a mere covering to excuse sin.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?“13
Since we have the availability of the Eternal Spirit, it is easier to obey God under the New Covenant than under the Old. However, the punishment for disobeying under the New Covenant is even more severe. We must always remember that true salvation can only come through an experience with the Cross. It is the only message that can bring New Life.
Although God is full of infinite compassion, love, mercy and grace, He is also a holy God and cannot allow a single sin to go unpunished. The exceeding sinfulness of man must be viewed in light of the holiness of God. In the Cross we find the love of God for man but also his intense hatred for sin. If you truly love God, you will hate all sin. You will desire above all else to be made holy by His Blood – not merely forgiven but also cleansed.
The New Cross
In an effort to comfort people struggling with sin and to gain a following, many ministers have fallen prey to the message of “The New Cross.” Author A.W. Tozer describes the deficiency of this message:
“The new cross does not slay the sinner; it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, ‘Come assert yourself for Christ.’ To the egoist it says, ‘Come and do your boasting in the Lord.’ To the thrill-seeker it says, ‘Come and enjoy the thrill of the abundant Christian life.’
“The idea behind this kind of thing may be sincere, but this kind of sincerity does not save it from being false. It misses completely the whole message of the cross. The cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a person. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him to newness of life.
“How can this idea then translate itself in life? Simply the sinner must go on to forsake himself. Let him cover nothing, defend nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die.“14
This false teaching of “The New Cross” has wreaked havoc all across our nation. This message seeks to comfort rather than convict. People are told, “Just say this sinner’s prayer and accept God’s forgiveness and grace.” There is one major element missing from this message. What must we do to be saved? – REPENT! Any message that does not require repentance from sin and a resulting outward change is a Cross-less message and is false.
Understand that the requirement for holiness is not legalism. Jesus Christ is not so concerned with individual acts of sin as He is with sin nature. When sin nature is destroyed, individual acts of sin will disappear. If we stumble in obedience and commit individual acts of sin we can seek forgiveness. However, sin nature must be eradicated. The people of God must be moving from glory to glory and be changing from moment to moment into the image of God.
This message is currently spurned by many. But the day is coming when the presence and the glory of God will be revealed in His people. Even now a great shaking and purging is taking place. The end result will be a holy people. The message of the Cross is a hard message – but it is the only true message and the only one that will make a difference in the world today.
Do not be deceived by those who say that it is impossible to live a holy life. The Gospel message is very simple and clear – forsake your life and cling to the Cross. It is your only hope.
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while,
“He who is coming will come
and will not delay.
But my righteous one will
live by faith.
And if he shrinks back,
I will not be pleased with him.
“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.“15
1 Hebrews 9:27,28 2 Psalm 40:6-8 3 Genesis 2:16-17
4 Genesis 5:1-3 5 Romans 3:10-23 6 Leviticus 17:11
7 M.R. De Haan, M.D., The Tabernacle, (The Zondervan Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, 1955), p. 157
8 Luke 23:44-46 9 Hebrews 9:14 10 Galatians 2:20
11 Galatians 5:16,24,25 12 Colossians 3:5,6
13 Hebrews 10:26-29 14 A.W. Tozer, “The Old Cross and the New” 15 Hebrews 10:35-39