The Cross/Altar of Jesus Christ, Part 3

In part 2 we examine God’s communication to the human race through the atonement, painting a picture of what Jesus would later accomplish for the sins of the world (John 1:29). In this section, we will see that God tells His story with blood.

A Sacrifice

The cross of Jesus Christ is the single greatest event that has ever taken place for the benefit of the human race. While many may be quick to argue for the resurrection, and by no means would I want to give any indication that I am dispelling the glories of the Christ risen from the dead, the resurrection becomes an impossibility without the death of Christ to procure it.

In his book on the Tabernacle, M.R. DeHaan writes, “The altar is the Cross, the starting point of our experience of salvation” [1]. Many have viewed the cross as an execution device, and while it is very much that, there is something more taking place than just torture and death. The shedding of blood, Divine Blood, is being administered due to the sins of the world. The author of Hebrews tells us that “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22b). This brings us back to the concept of atonement as stressed in Leviticus 16.

Why blood? What was significant about the necessity for blood in relation to sin? Again, this is a foundational truth first seen in Genesis 4:10 where YHWH tells Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” In Genesis 9:4 we find, “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood,” showing us that the life of a creature is found in the blood of a creature. In Leviticus 17:11 we read, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” The Hebrew word for “life” is literally translated “soul,” which can be verified in all of the major passages that speak of one’s blood as being their “life” (See Deut 12:23).

If we go further along to Leviticus 17:14, we read “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life.” DeWitt explains, “Since the blood is the literal vehicle of all life, whether animal or man, only it could adequately typify life, and give full meaning to God’s provision for the expiation of our sins, as well as the efficacy of Christ’s blood” [2]. Therefore, it is Christ’s perfect, law-abiding, God-honoring earthly life that is given as a sacrifice for the sins of the world; sins that He did not commit.

The conclusion may be that the demand for blood by a holy God is repulsive, abhorrent, and vile. But is this not what our sin is unto God? Nothing in sin is worthy, precious, or valuable. Nothing of sin is condoned. Evan Hopkins writes, “That it is overruled for our good, and that it is made to serve in the process of our spiritual discipline is undoubtedly true, but sin is not an essential element in our moral training or spiritual advancement” [3]. All sin is a personal offense to the Lord of glory, for it creates a thick-walled isolation between the Creator and His uniquely-designed creature. Thus, it is bright, red blood being presented before Him that demolishes the barriers that sin creates.

We are told this fact in Ephesians 2:14-16. It states:

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups (Jew and Gentile) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing
wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two (Jew and Gentile) into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (emphasis added).

The blood of Jesus is the remedy for sin. Death, and this being the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, is the penalty for sin. It is the consequence for rebellion against God. D.L. Moody gives an illustration of the importance of this consequence:

“Suppose there was a law that man should not steal, but no penalty was attached to stealing; some man would have my pocketbook before dinner. If I threatened to have him arrested, he would snap his fingers in my face. He would not fear the law, if there was no penalty. It is not the law that people are afraid of; it is the penalty attached.
Do you suppose God has made a law without a penalty. What an absurd thing it would be! Now, the penalty for sin is death: ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ I must die, or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn’t teach that, it doesn’t teach anything. And that is where the atonement of Jesus Christ comes in” [4].

Atonement is truly a God-send, placing all of the deserved punishment on Another so that the guilty may be absolved of all wrongdoing. What a glorious truth to communicate to the world!

[1] M.R. DeHaan, The Tabernacle (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p. 9.

[2] Roy Lee DeWitt, Teaching from the Tabernacle (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), p. 126.

[3] Evan H. Hopkins, THe Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life (CLC Publications, 1991).

[4] D. L. Moody, Anecdotes, Incidents, and Illustrations (Chicago; New York; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1898), p. 78–79.

Senior Pastor of Grace Bible Church in Portage, Wisconsin.

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