When God created Adam and Eve, they were created in His "image," i.e. they had God's spiritual life and could have fellowship with Him. When they sinned, they became spiritually dead and also prone to physical death. We, the human race, inherited Adam's sinful nature and are thus spiritually dead and incapable of fellowship with God. From Genesis to Revelation, the central theme of the Bible is God's eternal, perfect plan for the salvation of mankind.
In order to gain an overview of this vast subject, I have divided it into six sections:
1. The necessity for the atonement
1.1 God's holiness
1.2 Man's sinfulness
1.3 God's wrath
1.4 God's justice and love
2. Atonement in the Old Testament
2.1 Definition of the term
2.2 The sacrificial system
2.3 The day of atonement
2.4 The passover
3. Atonement in the New Testament
3.1 A revelation of God's love
3.4 Identification or union
4. Atonement: the work of Christ
4.1 Christ's obedience
4.2 Christ as the ultimate sacrifice
4.3 Christ as the mediator of the new covenant
4.4 Christ as the eternal high priest
5. The purpose and effects of the atonement
5.1 The Godward aspect
5.1.2 Vindication of the lawgiver
5.1.3 Remission (or forgiveness) of sins
5.2 The manward aspect
5. The purpose and effects of the atonement
The main purpose of the atonement was to give satisfaction to God for the wrong done by the sinner, through the substitutionary death of Christ. The result was that God could be reconciled to the sinner.
A secondary purpose of the atonement was to change the relationship between God and
the sinner by changing the state of the sinner. The reconciled God justifies the sinner who accepts the reconciliation, and works in his heart through the Holy Spirit so that he also lays aside his hostility to God and become reconciled to Him.
We must therefore distinguish between those effects of the atonement with a Godward aspect and those with a manward aspect.
5.2 The manward aspect
By the atonement God achieved a change in the state of sinners, so that He could look on them with favour. This change becomes available to sinners as they put their faith in the completed work of Christ. It comprises 1) reconciliation, 2) justification, 3) redemption and 4) adoption.
The Greek words translated as "reconciliation" mean a "change from enmity to friendship."  The Bible pictures sinners as "alienated from God"  and His
"enemies."  Sin has destroyed our harmony with God, making us hostile toward the One whom we sense must be our Judge.
However, Christ died for us "while we were still sinners."  Having taken away our sins,  they are no longer "counted against us."  By dealing with the root cause of the enmity, Christ has made the way wide open for men to return to God. Therefore we can now "rejoice in God" who, through Christ, has reconciled us to Himself and established peace, so that we are "free from accusation." 
The letter to the Hebrews  points out that in obtaining God's forgiveness for sinners, Jesus also provided us with the means to inner transformation:
i) When one accepts forgiveness for oneself, one's attitude to others is changed and becomes forgiving.
ii) Our gratitude for the remission (or forgiveness) of our many sins nurtures love in our hearts toward God and our fellowmen.
iii) Because Jesus has taken away our sins, we are no longer in bondage to our feelings of guilt and our guilt itself. We are set free to forget the past, to love God and to pursue holy lives.
To justify (Hebrew sadaq, Greek dikaioo) means "to acquit," "to declare righteous" and is the opposite of "to condemn."  Thus the term "justification" has legal overtones. God id the "Judge of all the earth"  and, because He is just, He must condemn the guilty. Yet David appealed to God's mercy and love when he asked "the God who saves" to blot out his transgressions.  Isaiah clearly indicates that God would save sinners by the "poured out ... life" of His "righteous servant."  Paul announces "a righteousness from God, apart from the law" which " comes through faith in Jesus Christ."  God has taken the initiative, and now sinners "are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ." 
Justification is the act of God removing the guilt and penalty of sin from a sinner who places his faith in the Lord Jesus as saviour, and the granting of a positive righteousness, Jesus Christ. This is made possible by and based upon the satisfaction which Jesus Christ offered on the cross as complete payment of the penalty imposed by the law because of human transgressions of that law; thus making possible the granting of mercy upon the basis of justice satisfied.
The "ground" of our justification is therefore the representative lawkeeping and redemptive bloodshedding of Christ on our behalf, and the "means" of our justification is faith in Christ.
The concept of redemption is rooted in OT revelation. Three Hebrew words are translated as "redeem" or "ransom," and each word pictures helpless human beings who need the mediation of a third party. of these three words, two add important to the concept of redemption. Padah, meaning "a transfer of ownership,"  is used of God redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt.  They thus became God's by redemption as well as creation. The verb ga'al means "to play the part of a kinsman,"  i.e. to help a relative. Since God is often pictured as Israel's kinsman, redemption is an expression of relationship.
In the NT Christ became our kinsman when He took on humanity. His love for His kinsmen compelled Him to pay the price of redemption - His precious blood.  By becoming "a curse" for us, He "redeemed us from the curse of the law."  We, who were in bondage to "wickedness" and "an empty way of life,"  have thus become "His very own."  Upon payment of the ransom price,  our status has been changed by a transfer of ownership.
There is no technical term for adoption in Hebrew, and the OT laws make no mention of such a practice. Therefore the idea of legal adoption is found in Roman rather than in Jewish or Greek culture. The father's authority was supreme, so that he acquired all the possessions of the adoptee and had the right of discipline. Although this picture does fit the believer as an adopted son of God, Paul rather seems to stress the benefits of the adoptee. He states that"the adoption as sons" belongs to "the people of Israel."  Therefore the roots of the legal adoption of the NT believer can be found in the OT picture of Israel as God's son. 
God has "predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ."  By redeeming us from "under the law" our status has been changed from slavery to sonship.  As a consequence we have received "the Spirit of His Son into our hearts"  who "testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."  As children of God we have access to our Father,  and have become "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."  Our final adoption as sons will take place at the resurrection, when even our bodies will be redeemed." 
God manifested His love towards sinners by sending His only Son into the world to be the propitiation for their sins.  Those who put their faith in the blood of Jesus are justified freely by God's grace,  and given the ultimate privilege of being adopted as His children.  Thus the whole of the NT message can be summed up in three words: "Adoption through propitiation." 
1. Vine, p.942
2. Colossians 1:21
3. Romans 5:10; James 4;4
4. Romans 5;8
5. Hebrews 9;28
6. 2 Corinthians 5;19
7. Romans 5:11; Colossians 1:20-22
8. Hebrews 9:1-10:18
9. Douglas, p.646
10. Genesis 18: 25
11. Psalms 51: 1,14
12. Isaiah 53:11-12
13. Romans 3:21-22
14. Romans 3:24
15. Richards, p.516
16. Deuteronomy 15:15
17. Richards, p.516
18. Ephesians 1:17
19. Galations 3:13
20. Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18
21. Titus 2:14
22. Matthew 20:28
23. Romans 9:4
24. Isaiah 1:2f; Jeremiah 3:19
25. Ephesians 1:5
26. Galations 4:1-5
27. Galations 4:6
28. Romans 8:16
29. Romans 8:15;Hebrews 10:19-22
30. Romans 8:17
31. Romans 8:23
32. 1 John 4:8-10
33. Romans 3:21-25
34. John 1:12
35. Packer, p.241
1. Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology, Michigan, U.S.A.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1941
2. Berkouwer, G.C. The Work of Christ, Michigan, U.S.A.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965
3. Calvin, J. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Philadelphia, U.S.A.: Westminster Press, 1960
4. Deist, F. A Concise Dictionary of Theological Terms, Johannesburg, R.S.A.: Van Schaik, 1984
5. Douglas, J. (ed.) New Bible Dictionary, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1962
6. Goodrick, E.W. The NIV Complete Concordance, Michiga, U.S.A.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
7. Hammond, T.C. In Understanding Be Men, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968
8. Packer, J.I. Knowing God, London, England: Hodder & Stoughton, 1975
9. Pearlman, M. Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible, Roodepoort, R.S.A.: Gospel Publishing House, 1937
10. Richards, L.O. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Michigan, U.S.A.: Regency Reference Library, 1985
11. Stott, J.R.W. The Letters of John, Leichester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988
12. Thompson, F.C. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983
13. Vine, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, ?
14. Webster, ? Webster's 7th Collegiate Dictionary, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: G & C Merriam Co., 1965
15. Wuest, K.S. Word Studies: Romans in the Greek NT, Michigan, U.S.A.: Eerdman's Publishing Co., 1955
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