Tuesday, April 10, 2018


It is argued that it was not necessary for Jesus to die on the cross. Why not? Because God had been able to forgive Israel before the cross! Taking this a step further – if Jesus is unnecessary, then it would seem that this opens the door to the claim that there are many ways to salvation, not just through faith in Jesus.

Let’s break this issue into two parts:

1.    God did “forgive” repentant Israelites in view of Jesus’ assured future payment of sins’ like leasing a car in view of the monthly payments.

2.    However, this “forgiveness” did not cleanse and eradicate sin but merely covered it over.

I plan to only focus on #2. Before Jesus’ atonement for sin, the sin problem was merely “passed over”:

·       [Jesus Christ] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26)

God would only truly forgive sin after the “show of his righteousness.” It was through the cross that He demonstrated His love for us (Romans 5:8-10) and the enormity of our sins that required nothing less than the death of God Himself.

What then was the fate of the OT saints? Their complete forgiveness also had to await the cross. The blood of bulls and goats could not pay for our sins:

·       For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:13-15 (ESV)

The OT saints could not be purified, redeemed, or even forgiven without the atoning blood of Christ, which worked retroactively to forgive the “transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

It was the promise of the New Covenant (NC) that would bring the true forgiveness and cleansing from sin. To demonstrate this, Hebrews cites Jeremiah regarding the promised NC:

·       …then he [the Holy Spirit] adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  [Jeremiah 31:34] Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:17-18; 8:12)

Evidently, there hadn’t been any “forgiveness of these” until the cross. Instead, the continuous offering of animal sacrifices demonstrated that they could only accomplish a superficial and temporary forgiveness:

·       For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:1-4, 10)

Instead of eradicating sin, the animal offering served as a “reminder” that they were still in their sins. It is only through the blood of Christ that we are sanctified and purified so that we can approach God in confidence:

·       Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The OT saints had been terrified by the presence of God. Only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, representing the presence of God, and only once a year after making the most elaborate preparations. This had taught the Israelites that there still existed a sin-separation between themselves and their God.

However, this was all changed when Jesus took our sins upon Himself and died for us. Upon His death, the separating curtain of the Holy of Holies was torn in two, symbolizing that they could then enter into His presence (Hebrews 9:8-9):

·       And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:51-53)
Presumably, these saints then ascended into heaven where they could now reside in the presence of the Lord. Why? Because they could not receive this privilege until the atonement of Jesus:

·       These all [the former OT heroes of the faith] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth… And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:13, 39-40; 1 Peter 1:12)

These exemplary OT saints could only be cleansed of their sins after the cross. How blessed we are today, having the confidence that we have been entirely cleansed of our sins and have the Spirit of Christ abiding within us. While the OT saints had been visited by the Spirit, they could not be indwelt until they were cleansed by a God now satisfied that righteousness has been accomplished. There is no other way!

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