How Can Jesus' Death Bring About Forgiveness?
Imagine you are finishing up your first week at the new job, and you ask your boss for your paycheck. He says there are no wages to be paid. "What? No wages? No way!" you would loudly protest. The simple fact is that we all expect wages to be paid for what we have accomplished.
God also pays wages, but not the kind of wage that most people would want to receive. From the very beginning of the Bible, we see mankind sinning against God-man rebellion, basically "doing his own thing." God tells Adam and Eve that there was a penalty for disobedience: physical and spiritual death (Gn 2:17). This theme of death as punishment for sins is echoed throughout the Bible. "For the wages of sin is death" (Rm 6:23). "You were dead in your trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1). In other words, every sinner without exception will receive a most undesirable wage.
The book of Leviticus describes multiple divine laws which, when broken, would result in the guilty party being executed. There was no one who could keep all the laws without breaking one. However, the most important day of the year for the Hebrew people was Yom Kippur, which was also known as "The Day of Atonement" (see Lv 16; 23;26-32). Atonement deals with reconciling or "bringing together" a broken relationship between two parties – in this case, between a holy God and sinful people.
On the Day of Atonement, two healthy goats without defect were chosen, representing sinless perfection. The first goat was slaughtered by the priest and offered as a substitution for the people's sins. The second goat, known as the scapegoat, was allowed to go free into the wilderness, symbolically bearing the sin of the people. Because the priest had laid his hands on the goat and confessed the sins of the people, the people were considered forgiven and no longer under God's judgment. From this Old Testament action, we see a picture of a greater "sin bearer" yet to come. Jesus Christ, who is fully God, would also become fully man, in order to become the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. Hebrews 2:17 says, "Therefore He (Jesus) had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." The word Propitiation indicates "an offered gift that removes one's justified anger, a gift that turns a former enemy into ta friend." When Christ, the ultimate sacrificial victim, died on our behalf, He bore in His body the wrath of God that we justly deserved. "We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all" (Is 53:6; italics added).
Jesus has suffered and "paid the wages" to cover the sins of us all. It may sound too good to be true, but it is a simple fact; If we look to Christ and trust His death for our sins, we are completely forgiven.
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 120.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of
Leviticus that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.