Difficult Scriptures Concerning Atonement

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John 1:14 (NASB). “And the Word became flesh.” What does it mean?

It can only mean that in the beginning the Word was not flesh (but a spirit nature), yet he was transformed from the nature he had had into the fleshly human nature (when he was begotten in Mary, Galatians 4:4) — an actual change of nature. (At his resurrection he was again transformed — from the human nature into the divine nature — the highest of all natures.)

Hebrews 2:10. “For it became him …to make the captain of their salvation perfect.” Hebrews 5:8-9. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 9:28. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” If Jesus was sinless, how could he be made perfect?

Phillips well paraphrases Hebrews 5:8-10, “Son though he was, he had to prove the meaning of obedience through all that he suffered …Then, when he had been proved the perfect Son, he became the source of eternal salvation.” Jesus was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). How then can he “be made perfect” if he was already perfect?
The words translated “be made perfect” in our text are defined in Strong’s Dictionary as follows; #5048 teleioo; to complete, that is, (literally) accomplish, or (figuratively) consummate
(in character).

Was Jesus then incomplete? Yes, but only in the sense that his perfection was as yet untested, unproven. After suffering injustice and cruel treatment, would he remain perfect? Lucifer
and Adam were perfect beings too, yet when tested both failed to remain perfect. Jesus was tested severely, “by the things which he suffered,” yet Jesus stood, a perfect, a complete,
consummate character. His obedience, fidelity and love for God had been proven so as by fire; it was thereby crystallized. Now he was “made perfect,” “complete” in the full sense of teleioo.

Now Jesus could be granted immortality, having life within himself. (While it is a separate consideration, let us note that a similar testing and proving applies to his disciples that are
chosen as “members of his body.”)

Further, see Luke 10:18, Isaiah 14:12-15, Genesis 1:26-31, Romans 8:16-17.

Proverbs 21:18. “The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.” How could the wicked be a ransom for the righteous?

This verse shocks the reader. But the Hebrew word translated “ransom” means “atonement” or “covering” (kopher, like our English “cover”), rather than “ransom” (ga’al).

One explanation is: “The laws of society are made for the masses of the people — not for the saints; but those laws made for the people in general we — the Lord’s saints — have as a covering” (R5972).

A partly similar thought is: The wicked is a payment for the righteous; and the treacherous cometh in the stead of the upright (RVIC. Italics implies supplied words). The two clauses are parallel. That is, the world often does not know the difference between right and wrong. JP

● Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19. What were the actual words on Jesus’ cross?

At first glance, the four accounts seem irreconcilable, although three of the writers were eye-witnesses:


Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties,” deduces a harmony, slightly modified here: This is Jehoshuah [Jesus] the King of the Jehudim [Jews] (Hebrew/Aramaic, Matthew).
This is the King of the Jews (Latin, Mark and Luke). Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews (Greek, John)

Matthew was written originally in Hebrew (or Aramaic, a sister language), according to Papias, an early second-century Christian; so Matthew would have recorded that version.
Mark likely wrote in Rome, and Luke was writing to a Roman official; so they would have used the Latin version. Decades later, John, writing from Patmos in Grecian territory, reported
the Greek version. Thus a seeming disharmony is more apparent than real.

Matthew 12:39-40. If Jesus died in the afternoon but was raised at sunrise two days later, how could he be in the heart of the earth for 72 hours?

“As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea-monster; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40 RV margin).
The number of hours is not stated. The time cannot be longer than 72 hours but may be shorter, provided it includes at least parts of all three daytimes and all three nighttimes. Yet, the time must be both longer than two daytimes and longer than two nighttimes. Two reasonable thoughts have been proposed:

(1) Jesus was resurrected at, or just after, sunrise on the third day. Jesus was taken bound on the night before the crucifixion (John 18:12). If he was held in the dungeon, then he was “in the heart of the earth” for two and one-half days, off and on.

(2) “A darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour … And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into thy hands I commit my breath: and having said this, he gave up the breath” (Luke 23:44-46 RVIC). Then “when the sabbath was past … very early on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb when the sun was risen … ye seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who hath been crucified: he was raised; he is not here” (Mark 16:2,6 RVIC). Thus, Jesus died during the ninth hour of the
first day, and he was raised during the first hour of the third day, 40 hours later. (It would take time to bury him, but he had to be buried before sunset, Deuteronomy 21:22-23.) Jesus
was crucified by the Romans; so by Roman midnight reckoning, Jesus was in the tomb:

1-3 hours of Friday daytime, from burial to sunset, 1st daytime  6 hours Friday sunset to midnight, 1st nighttime  6 hours Saturday midnight to dawn, 2nd nighttime  12 hours Saturday sunrise to sunset, 2nd daytime  6 hours Saturday sunset to midnight, 2nd nighttime  6 hours Sunday midnight to dawn, 3rd nighttime  0-1 hour of Sunday daytime to Jesus’
resurrection, 3rd daytime.

Thus, Jesus was dead during parts of Friday daytime and nighttime, all of Saturday daytime and nighttime, and during parts of Sunday nighttime and daytime. Thus, by Roman reckoning, Jesus was in the tomb “three days and three nights.”
(In Jonah’s case, the many events of the day just before Jonah was cast overboard suggest that he was cast overboard in the afternoon, rather than the morning. And quite likely Jehovah
God would have caused the great fish to vomit Jonah onto the land toward the beginning of daytime. Jonah 1:4-17, 2:10.) JP

Leviticus 16:10, 20-22. “But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” How can a goat be rejected and yet make atonement?

“And according to the law almost all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there cometh no remission” (Hebrews 9:22, RVIC). The most prominent exception in “almost all things” is the departure goat (loosely translated “scapegoat”).

The bullock apparently was provided by Aaron the high priest, but “he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two he-goats” (Leviticus 16:5 RVIC). Hence, the goats represent
something other than the bullock (which represents Jesus Christ).

After the bullock and the LORD’s goat have been offered for sin-offerings, “Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat [departure goat], and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away … into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a solitary land” (Leviticus 16:21-22 RVIC).

The symbols of the two goats are explained in Ezekiel 44:10-16, where the fully-faithful priests are contrasted with the Levites. Of the latter, “the Levites that went far from me, when Israel went astray, that went astray from me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity … Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and became a stumblingblock of iniquity unto … Israel … they shall bear their iniquity. And they shall not come near unto me, to execute the office of priest unto me … Yet will I make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all
the service thereof” (Ezekiel 44:10-14 RVIC).

The priests and the Levites typify the 144,000 — the Bride of Christ — and the great multitude, respectively. The message is
that the great multitude shall bear the iniquities that they have caused people to commit; so the people will not be held responsible for those iniquities. Such non-sacrificial atonement
— bearing their own guilt — is not comparable to the great atonement of the sin-offering, which cancels the Adamic death penalty of original sin.

Neither the great multitude nor the Bride of Christ contribute any atoning merit to the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ (shown in the offering of the blood of the bullock), because Jesus Christ died “once for all, when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27). JP

Editor’s note: But compare R3606.

Acts 17:31, 1 Timothy 2:3-6. How can the man Christ Jesus judge the world or be the mediator?

There are two apparently strong scriptures for the view that Jesus since his resurrection is still a man. God “will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he hath ordained”
(Acts 17:31 RVIC). However, the Greek word is aner, meaning a male (as distinct from female), whereas the Greek word anthropos would have been the word to distinguish a man
from a spirit being (as in Matthew 9:8).

In 1 Timothy 2:4-6, which may be literally translated, “God our Saviour; who would have all men to be saved, and come to a full knowledge of truth. For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself having been a man, Christ Jesus, the one having given himself a ransom for all” (RVIC). Here the
bone of contention is the tense of the supplied verb, “having been,” which is more appropriately taken from the tense of the Greek verb in the next clause (“having given”), rather than
from the closest preceding explicit verb three clauses earlier (“come,” but properly “to have come;” as noted in The Analytical Greek Lexicon. For that matter, “to be saved” is another “aorist” tense, and passive; it is properly “to have been saved.” So even the two preceding verbs are in a past tense. Thus, the supplied
verb should be also). The supplied tense here suggests how Jesus Christ is the ideal mediator: Jesus has been human, but thereafter he has the nature of God evermore — he has been
on both sides of the fence!

Adapted from “About the Nature of God,” The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom, July 2012.








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