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Chapter 9[B]y our sins we are guilty before God and we need our sins to be covered. We don’t need the kind of covering that a child uses when they’re supposed to clean their room and instead they cover their toys with a rug. To the child the room may look clean, but a more discerning eye sees the problem has not been dealt with. We need the kind of covering for our sin that is a doing away with our sins permanently. We need them covered and remembered no more.
In the Bible we are taught about such a covering called atonement. Atone generally means to cover and is used in the Bible to describe the complete putting away of our sin and reconciling us to God. Because of our sins there is a breech between us and God that cannot be mended without doing away with our sins. In the atonement God provides, our sins are done away and we are reconciled to him.
The Bible teaches the atonement in a few different ways to reveal a fuller picture of what it means to receive atonement for our sins. There are two main categories of teaching on the atonement in the Old Testament—types, or figures, and prophecies. These teach us about the nature of the atonement and what it does.
Types in the Bible are figures or representations where one thing is a picture of something else. For instance, if you’re familiar with the life of David at all then you’ve seen David as a type of Christ. Certain events or even certain conditions in David’s life are representative and teach us about Jesus Christ, the Savior. Likewise, there are figures for the atonement.
The first type of the atonement we meet with in the Bible is in Genesis 3:21 where God took “coats of skins” and clothed Adam and Eve.
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
– Genesis 3:21
God had created Adam first and then created Eve from Adam. God brought them together as husband and wife and placed them in the Garden of Eden. They were created in a sinless state and, as husband and wife, they had no clothes or coverings on their bodies and they were “not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Their nakedness represented their sinless state, intimacy of relationship, and vulnerability before God. They had nothing to hide. However, Eve sinned when she took and ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She also gave to Adam and he ate after her.
Upon eating the fruit, their eyes were opened, i.e. they gained the knowledge/experience of sin they previously lacked. They were no longer sinless and they immediately tried to cover their bodies because they were now ashamed.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
– Genesis 3:7
They made themselves small coverings of fig leaves, but these were not adequate. After pronouncing the curses because of sin, God slew the animals and made clothes out of their hides to cover Adam and Eve.
This type teaches the need for a covering. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves because of the shame of sin, but man cannot cover his own sin no matter how hard he tries. His covering is not acceptable. God mercifully covered them with an acceptable covering as a picture of the covering they needed.
The next major type of the atonement is in the blood of the Passover lamb in Exodus 12:1-30. God was going to bring a plague of the death of the firstborn on Egypt. He had Moses warn the Israelites that this plague was coming and he gave them instructions to be delivered from it. Each house was instructed to take a first-year, unblemished lamb for their house. They were to kill the lamb and eat it in a certain way. They also had to take the blood of the lamb and smear it on the door posts and lintel of the door of their house. God sent his angel throughout the land of Egypt that night, and every house that did not have the covering of blood experienced the death of the firstborn of the house.
Israel was taught that a covering of blood was required to save life. The instructions were specific about the lamb and what was done with it. Just any covering would not do and they were not free to come up with their own plan. When the covering God provided was on the house, the angel passed over that house and life was saved. They learned that the covering protected them from the judgment of death.
The next types of the atonement are found in the law of the offerings in Leviticus chapters 1 to 7. These were the animal sacrifices required by the law to cover sin, restore fellowship, and to make clean what had been defiled. The law contained detailed directions for what animals could be offered in different situations. They specified how the sacrifices were to be killed and the steps for burning on the altar. When these were done properly, the sinner was told it was accepted and atonement was made for him. His sins were covered.
These sacrifices were a type of the atonement because they were not the actual atonement but only pointed to it. In other words, these sacrifices weren’t actually effectual at covering sin.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
– Hebrews 10:1-6
These animal sacrifices taught that sin required the shedding of blood for remission (Hebrews 9:22). The fact that they had to be repeated continually showed they weren’t an adequate covering but that a better covering was needed.
Another type of the atonement covering was figured in the Day of Atonement when the high priest would go into the holy of holies in the tabernacle annually to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat (Leviticus 16:1-34). The holy of holies was separated by a thick curtain and no one was ever allowed to go behind that curtain except the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement. In order for him to enter, which is a type of coming into the presence of God, he had to have a covering of blood and the smoke of the incense. We could plunge deep into all the details of this, but it suffices our purpose here to recognize that once again we are taught that we must have a covering to come into God’s presence and not die in judgment.
Types are figures that point us to the antitype, or the reality. This quick survey of some types of the atonement teaches us the need for a real covering. The one covering we need and the one covering that is acceptable is not anything we can make or contrive ourselves. Beside types, the Bible also teaches us about the atonement through prophecies and that’s what we want to consider in the next chapter.
This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.
If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.