Jesus’ Atoning Death and Resurrection
by Glen Jackman | Posted May 7th at 12:56pm
The disciples were to be occupied with proclaiming the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Thus, “the cross” came to be a prominent metaphor of the gospel message – so much so, that Paul could call the gospel “the word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Penal substitution is the theological doctrine that God inflicted upon Christ the suffering which we deserved as punishment for our sins, resulting in: we no longer deserve punishment. This occurred during the atonement of Christ on the cross.1 This is the gospel message of the new testament (NT) — that God, out of His great love, has provided the means of atonement for sin through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.
The saving significance of Jesus’ death, for early Christians, was acknowledged as the antitype of the sacrificial system predominating Israel’s Scriptures since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in Eden. The practise of animal sacrifice in the Jerusalem temple was still occurring during the Passover festival period when Christ was crucified.
- “Christ died for all“ is a predominant motif in variant forms throughout the NT: (see Mark 14:24; Romans 5:6, 8; 15:3; Galatians 2:21; 1 Peter 3:18).
From the sacrifice of animals, the potentiation of the blood of Christ to save mankind from sin is recognized symbolically. “Christ our Passover Lamb” is emblematic of the sacrifice of his life on the cross upon which he died. This is an eternal concept understood by Christians, which relates to the blood placed on the doorposts the night before enslaved Israel left Egypt as a freed people, blood that would save them from the destroying angel of judgement. During the tenth and final plague, God passed through the land of Egypt and struck down the firstborn of every household where there was no blood applied to the lintel of the doorway. The Jews were told by Moses, to mark their doors with the blood of a lamb they’ve sacrificed to Yahweh God — the Passover offering — and so God “passed over” their homes. (Exodus 12:7-13)
The theological term Lamb of God symbolizes Jesus’ shedding of his blood to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 1:36; Revelation 5:6). The majority of Christians know that the reference to the “Lamb of God” refers to the cross of Calvary where Jesus died to redeem the world from sin — as he bore our judicial punishment there. It is noteworthy that Paul referred to Christ as the rock that was present with Israel in the Exodus coming out of Egypt. (1 Corinthians 10:4) Couple this thought with the fact that Jesus referred to Himself as the great “I am” — the name that Yahweh, Father God, initially gave to Moses in the dialogue at the burning bush when He called him to lead Israel out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:14)
Consider the references to the saving effects of The blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; Romans 5:9; Colossians 1:20). Jesus’ death is presented as a Covenant sacrifice (Mark 14:24; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 7:22; 8:6; 9:15), a Passover sacrifice (John 19:14; 1 Corinthians 5:7–8), the Sin-offering (Rom 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21), The offering of firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23), the sacrifice offered on The Day of Atonement (Hebrews ch 9-10), and an offering reminiscent of Abraham’s presentation of Isaac (Romans 8:32). The writer of Ephesians summarizes well:
- “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2).
Thus, “the cross” came to be a prominent metaphor of the gospel message – so much so, that Paul could call the gospel “the word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18), reminding his Corinthian converts that “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Hence, Paul would glory in nothing “except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
The importance of the death of Christ for the New Testament church may be seen in the disproportionate space the four Gospels devote to Jesus’ “passion,” — the final week of his suffering and crucifixion, thereby emphasizing his death. Of course, Jesus’ death is not the end of the passion story: the Gospels all conclude with the proclamation of Jesus’ victorious resurrection, vindicating him as God’s chosen one. The death and resurrection of Jesus are two sides of the same coin: as Paul wrote, he “was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
1 William Lane Craig – Edited from his essay in the compilation: Raised on the Third Day: Defending the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, Copyright 2020 W. David Beck & Michael R. Licona, Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.