“God is so pure and holy that He will punish every single sin ever committed by every single person, either in that person or in the substitute for that person. That is the heart of Christianity,” says John MacArthur, explaining Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory.
Atonement theories try to answer the question, “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?”
Penal Substitution is the prevalent view among American Evangelicals today.
There’s definitely something there that’s right and yet, it can also seem so very wrong… even satanic.
Instead of Preaching “God so loved the world that he gave his only son;” we preach “God so hated the world that he murdered his only son.” Instead of preaching that it is God’s judgment to save, we preach that Jesus came to save us from God’s judgment… with some knowledge of Good and evil… to be dispensed by the pastor in an authorized church.” We give the impression that our God is a blood-thirsty god. And yet, it was us that drew his blood on the tree, and it was him that offered it the night before at dinner.
You can’t find the phrase “penal substitutionary atonement” in your Bible. However, you can find the words, “substitution” (in some Bibles), “punishment,” and most definitely “atonement.” Actually, it’s almost as if the entire Old Testament is a definition of that word.
Atonement basically means “at-one-ment.” In ancient Israel, on the day of atonement, the high priest would make atonement for the unintentional sins of Israel by sprinkling sacrificial blood on the top of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies between the two Cherubim on top of the Holy Mountain. That place was called the “kapporeth” in Hebrew, meaning “Place of Atonement.” It was also known as The Mercy Seat, The Judgment Seat, and The Throne of God. The Lord asked for blood, for he gave all the blood in the first place. The blood would return to the Throne in the Temple, like blood returns to your heart, receives oxygen, breath, or Spirit, and then is sent back to all the members of your body. The Life is in the Blood.
MacArthur asks, “How can God forgive me and still be holy?” That’s such a strange question, considering that the holiest thing, on the holiest day, in the holiest place on the holy mountain was the forgiveness of sins.
You can’t find the word “penal” in your bible, but you will find the word “punishment.”
And yet every word translated as “punishment” can also be translated as “discipline.”
The punishments of God can kill you, but also, raise you from the dead.
They’re not bad; they’re the very presence of the Good.
The punishment for darkness is Light. For desecration, it’s Creation. For bad judgment, it’s Good Judgment. For sin, it’s Grace. For the Liar, it’s the presence of the Truth. For the lost, it’s being found by the Way. For death, it’s the death of death in the Lake of Fire and Divinity—it is the Life, Eternal Life.
There is atonement, and there is punishment, and there is substitution, but maybe not for punishment—a penal substitution.
In Genesis chapter two we learn that the punishment for sin is death.
Through Ezekiel God tells us, “the soul that sins will die.” No substitutes.
It’s strange to imply that Jesus died so you won’t have to die.
Jesus taught that you can’t live unless you die; you must “lose your life,” to “find it.”
He even said, “pick up your cross and follow.”
He didn’t choose to die so you wouldn’t have to die.
He died in order to help you choose to die, so you might live—that’s called Faith.
Jesus is not a substitute for the Judgment of God your Father.
Jesus is the Judgment of God your Father and yet, he is a substitute.
He is the substitute for your own bad judgment.
Jesus is your righteousness.
Faith is “reckoned as righteousness” because it is.
So why did Jesus have to die on the cross?
When you ask the question from our frame of reference, God will seem to be divided, changeable, limited, and blood-thirsty like us.
But when you ask the man on the tree, the answer is rather surprising.
He didn’t have to die, he wanted to die; “No one takes my life from me,” said Jesus.
And what does his death accomplish? Well, everything . . . including you.
Romans 3:23-25, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified [made right] by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation [literally “The Mercy Seat,” “The Place of Atonement”] through faith in his blood.”
Faith is in his blood like oxygen is in your blood.
The One on the tree is God your Father who is giving you, his heart.
The One on the tree is God the Son who makes you his body and bleeds his life into you.
The One on the tree is God the Spirit who longs for you to exhale him and inhale him, to “pass the ball,” “to lose your life and find it,” to love.
The One on the tree is Love and he’s making you in his image.
“God is One,” writes Paul, “who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:30)
That’s everyone. And that means the atonement works. For it is not your judgment. It’s how God implants his Judgment in you.
What’s the reason for wrong? The revelation of the Right.
And what’s the reason for the Right?
There is no reason for the Right, the Right is the reason for everything else.
So, what’s the reason that is Right? That’s Christ and even Christ in you.
You are like a virgin that conceives.
Jesus never referred to himself (at least in Scripture) as the Son of Mary.
His favorite title for himself was “the Son of Man.” That means “Son of You.”
“So, what becomes of our boasting?” writes Paul. “It is excluded.”
All of our empty boasting will turn into praise.
The atonement conquers hell, by filling it with heaven.
So, he took the bread and broke it saying this is my body given to you.
And he took the cup saying this is the covenant in my blood. Drink of it all of you.
This is the atonement. You can never comprehend it, but it will comprehend you.