“Salvation” series (post #7)
We are in a series on the all-important subject of salvation, and the last couple of posts have dealt with blood. One explained the theological concept of blood atonement, and the other one traced the offering of blood sacrifices down through the Old Testament era and into the early decades of the New Testament era. Now, with all that foundation firmly in place, we are ready to bring Jesus Christ front and center.
Jesus left heaven and came into this world to be nothing less than the one, final, all-encompassing, all-sufficient, eternal blood sacrifice for every sin the human race had ever committed and would ever commit. Because of that, the blood He shed in dying on the cross put a permanent end to the need for any more sacrificial blood. I’ll cite seven passages here because seven is a good Biblical number, but there are other passages. These, however, make the case: (all from the N.K.J.V.):
- Matthew 26:28: (Jesus speaking) “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
- John 1:29: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
- John 1:35-36: Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
- Ephesians 1:7: In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
- 1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanses us from all sin.
- Revelation 1:5: and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.
- Revelation 5:8-10: Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb (Jesus), each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You (Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; For you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”
You’ll notice that in that first passage (Matthew 26:28) Jesus speaks of the wine He used during The Lord’s Supper, and He explains that the wine symbolized His blood. Then He associates His blood with a new covenant. The Greek word translated as “covenant” is diatheke. It is the same word that oftentimes gets translated “testament.”
The point is that just as God entered Himself into a covenant with the people of Israel in Old Testament times — that’s where the term “Old Testament” comes from — anyone who places his or her belief in Jesus as Savior enters into Christ’s new covenant (testament). And just as the Old Testament covenant between God and Israel was based upon shed sacrificial blood, the New Testament covenant that Jesus instituted is also based upon shed sacrificial blood. The difference is, whereas there were thousands upon thousands of blood sacrifices offered during the days of the Old Testament, Jesus’ death on the cross serves as the only blood sacrifice required for the new covenant.
What must not be lost in all this, however, is the fact that there has always been just ONE plan of salvation. Going all the way back to God killing those animals in the garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, and running all the way up to Jesus dying on the cross, there was always just ONE plan salvation. Just because there was an old covenant and now there is a new covenant, that doesn’t mean the two stand in conflict or contrast with each other. To the contrary, the new covenant that Jesus created actually fulfilled the old covenant.
Let me explain. Adam and Eve eating that forbidden fruit did not catch God off guard. He knew in His perfect foreknowledge they were going to do it. Therefore, He already had in mind a plan by which He could provide them, as well as all their descendants, forgiveness of sin. That plan was all about Jesus. Did you know that Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world?” As amazing as the idea sounds, in the foreknowledge of God, the lifeless body of Jesus hanging dead on a cross was a done deal even before Genesis 1:1.
Obviously, we are getting into the doctrinal waters of the Trinity here. Yes, the Bible really does teach that God is one God who has eternally existed in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. There are various analogies that get used to try to illustrate God being a triune God, but I don’t think any of them are adequate. For example, just as water can exist in the form of running water, ice, or vapor, God exists in three distinct persons. Or, just as one male can play the roles of son, husband, and father, God can play the roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I won’t say any more about the Trinity, but you can consult the following passages for further study: 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2 John 2:3; John 1:1-3,14; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Acts 5:3-4; Acts 13:2; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Matthew 28:19; James 2:19; Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 John 5:7
Getting back to the plan of salvation, God always knew that humans would turn themselves into sinners, and He always knew that God the Son would shed His divine blood in dying for all their sins. But, for reasons known only to God, God the Son would not literally come into the world and die that death until approximately 4,000 years after Adam and Eve’s sin. So the question was, How could sinners who lived before Jesus’ death be made right with God? Answer: by offering up blood sacrifices.
What must be understood, though, is that the best the blood from those pre-Jesus sacrifices could do was COVER sin and stay the wrath of God from falling upon those who offered them. What that blood couldn’t do was eternally CLEANSE sins. This is seen in the Old Testament word “atone,” which simply means “to cover.” As God told the people of Israel:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement (a covering) for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement (a covering) for your souls. (Leviticus 17:11, N.K.J.V.)
But the divine blood that Jesus shed in dying can do much more than just COVER sin; that blood can eternally CLEANSE it. Read carefully the following passages:
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4, N.K.J.V.)
And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man (Jesus), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-14, N.K.J.V.)
You see, in a very real sense, the blood Jesus shed in dying authenticated all that blood that had been shed via all those Old Testament sacrifices. In God’s eyes, each one of those sacrifices had foreshadowed and pointed toward Jesus’ eventual death on the cross. Think of it this way: Whenever God watched an Old Testament sacrifice being offered upon an altar, He had one eye on that sacrifice and the other eye on Jesus (in the future) hanging dead on the cross. In that way, God could allow the blood from that sacrificial animal to cover the individual’s sins until Jesus could come in time and history and shed His blood in dying to cleanse those sins completely.
And that’s where we will put a period on this post. Next time we’ll talk about what it takes for you, as an individual, to get Jesus’ shed blood applied to your sins. Certainly His blood is sufficient to provide eternal cleansing for everyone’s sins, going all the way back to Adam and Eve’s, but His blood isn’t automatically efficient to do so. No, something is required on your part to get His blood applied to your sins. Come back next time and we’ll identify what that something is.