The 4 Major Themes of Atonement: Reconciling, Pardoning, Appeasing, and Purging

This article will discuss the four major themes of atonement: reconciling, pardoning, appeasing, and purging. To reconcile is to be brought back into fellowship from a previously fractured relationship. To pardon is the action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error or offense by a higher authority. To appease is to pacify the anger or agitation of someone. Finally, to purge is to rid something of an unwanted quality, condition, or feeling.

Introduction

I work in real estate. My job is to help clients buy or sell homes, land, and commercial buildings. When a buyer wants to put an offer in for a home or commercial property, with a finance or cash offer, the seller can either accept or reject their offer.

If the seller accepts, they will sign and both parties will officially be under contract. A common practice in the beginning is for the buyer to schedule an inspection. The goal of the inspection is to objectively determine the condition of the home.

For example, how much wear and tear is there on the roof? Is the AC unit working properly? Are the electrical appliances up to code? Are there any leaks in the attic? Is the plumbing system functional?

Inspection day can be quite stressful because you never know what to expect. The roof may have looked good when you went to visit the home with your Realtor, but then you find out later on in the report there was a leak in a corner that you couldn’t see and now there is organic growth present in the attic. Believe me, the role of the inspector is to ensure that they thoroughly investigate every nook and cranny of the real estate building so the buyer knows exactly what they are investing in.

Inspection Day of the Heart

In the spiritual realm, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is our inspection day. It’s the holiest day of the year. Jews and Messianic believers in Yeshua observe this holy day with fasting and intensive prayer. We wear white to express the desire to be pure and holy like the angels. White reminds us of our immortality because it’s the type of garment believers are buried in. Wearing white also declares to the world our desire to apologize for the things we have done wrong. We demonstrated this last Shabbat by participating in tashlich, a tradition of throwing bread crumbs (in our case rocks) into water to wash away the mistakes of our past.

Additionally, believers spend much time in the synagogue during high holy days inspecting their hearts and contemplating the themes of atonement and repentance. It’s a time of reflection for us to be like the wise virgins described in Matthew 25, who had enough oil or filling of the Holy Spirit to be prepared for the bridegroom on judgment day.

It’s a time for us to ask: Are we cultivating the spirit in our own lives? Are we diligent in reading God’s Word and prayer so that when he returns, we will not have to run around and ask others for oil? Or to go back to my inspection analogy from before: Is your spiritual house prepared for Yeshua to knock on your door? In Revelation 3:20, Yeshua speaks to the church in Laodicea and says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Could you honestly say your spiritual life is ready to be inspected by the all-knowing Creator of the Universe?

These themes of inspection, repentance, and atonement began during Rosh Hashanah, the creation of the world, marking the beginning of the days of Awe, a 10 day period of introspection that culminates today on Yom Kippur. Making atonement translates to kipper, the verb for the removal of impurity from the Temple or sanctuary, accomplished by the dashing or sprinkling of blood from the purification or sin offering.

Atonement of Pardoning

This Hebrew words kippur and kaphar (the verb form of kippur) appears in many places throughout Scripture, with its first appearance in Exodus 30:10: It says, “Aaron shall make atonement on its horn once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement, he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.” The idea here is a covering or removal of a transgression. It is when an offended person pardons and removes the offense.

In the legal context, a government can pardon an individual of some or all legal consequences resulting from a criminal conviction. A pardon may be granted before or after conviction for the crime, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction. What does pardon mean? The action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error or offense by a higher authority.

A famous case happened with a New York businessman Sholam Weiss, who was pardoned by President Trump from an 835 year sentence, believed to be the longest ever imposed on a financial crime. Weiss, was sentenced in 2000 in federal court in Orlando, Florida after being convicted on charges stemming from his role in complex frauds that resulted in the collapse of an entire life insurance company.

When he learned of his pardoning, Weiss nephew made the comment: He just wants to enjoy living at home, and probably commit more to learning Torah. Sholam truly experienced this idea of being forgiven for an error or offense, which is a reminder to all of us that we need pardoning from God. For all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None of us have perfectly obeyed the Torah.

Atonement of Purging

The Hebrew verb for Kippur—which is kophar, is used seven times in the context of being purged. For instance, in 1 Samuel 3:14, the Lord says, “And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever. The reason? His sons made themselves vile, and he did not rebuke them for it. This idea of purge is to rid something of an unwanted quality, condition, or feeling. In Leviticus 16, you can think of the scapegoat Azazel, which was ritually burdened with the sins of the Israelites and sent out into the wilderness and down a steep ravine to die as a type of purging. It represented an act of carrying sin away from the holy camp.

What Do The Two Goats Represent On Yom Kippur?

Just to refresh our knowledge of what happened on Yom Kippur: two goats were chosen: one to be for Yahweh, as the spotless holy one offered as a blood sacrifice, and the other to be the scapegoat, bearing the sins of Israel, sent away into the wilderness. The blood of the slain goat was taken into the Holy of Holies behind the sacred veil and sprinkled on the mercy seat, the lid of the ark of the covenant. The High Priest would confess the sins of the Israelites to God and then place them figuratively on the head of the other goat, the Azazel scapegoat, who would symbolically “take the sins away”.

In this picture, I think it’s clear to see that Yeshua fulfills both roles: He is the perfect sacrifice, the holy sacrifice that pleases the Father, the spotless one, without any defect. He lived a life without sin and became the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. He is the fulfillment of this picture we see here in Leviticus 16. You also see him as the sort of scapegoat, who descends far far away from the Father, whose presence was in the Temple. He descends into the abyss.

Dr. Richard Barry, in his dissertation: The two goats: A Christian Yom Kippur Soteriology, beautifully summarizes this idea: “By seeing Christ as fulfilling the work of both goats in his single act of cruciform love, the Catholic tradition can better draw on the ancient Jewish insight that atonement requires a unifying movement toward the center, to the holy of holies, as well as a removal of sin to the far periphery, the godforsaken exilic wilderness.”

The goat moving toward the center of God, toward the holy of holies, just like Adam and Eve were in proximity to God in the Garden of Eden, or Moses in proximity to God on Mount Sinai and the burning bush, Jacob wrestling with God in proximity to become the nation of Israel, the incarnation of Christ who dwelled among humanity in bodily form, the Holy Spirit that now dwells in us as believers, the New Jerusalem where we will once again be united with God, the Canaan we are longing to get to, a land flowing with milk and honey–all moving toward proximity to God.

The other goat moving away from God’s presence, away from the temple, just like Adam and Even were kicked out of the garden, the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years, being brought into Babylonian exile and captivity, and Yeshua crying out to the Father on the tree: Why have you forsaken me? Because He had to descend away, away from the tabernacle, and into the abyss, into Sheol, a place of being forsaken, in order that He could be our atonement and scapegoat.

Atonement of Reconciliation

Kippur also is found in this notion of reconciliation. In 2 Chronicles 29:24, Scripture states: “And the priests killed the bullocks, and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.”

What do you think reconciliation means? To be brought back into fellowship from a previously fractured relationship. This type of reconciliation happens when the offended party repents and seeks forgiveness, and that forgiveness is accepted. That forgiveness restores the relationship to good terms. In 1 John 1 Scripture says, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

When the Prodigal Son left the Father’s house to live a rebellious, wasteful, and hedonistic lifestyle, He had fractured that relationship. The Father never stopped loving the son; however, due to sin, it separated them from one another. They were no longer in communication. For what fellowship does light have with darkness? However, when he repented, when he realized his sinful ways, he turned back and the Father embraced him before He could even speak. He made sure to give His son the best meal ever and rejoice, for His son was lost but is now found. He has been reconciled back into right relationship.

2 Chronicles 7:14 exclaims: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Yeshua told his disciples, “Unless you repent, you will perish.” This repentance, change of mind, that leads to turning 180 degrees in a new direction, leads to reconciliation. And it was Yeshua, the Lamb of God, who reconciled us to the Father by His blood. 2 Corinthians 5:18 states: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Atonement of Appeasement

Finally, another word for atonement in the Hebrew can be contextually understood as to pacify or appease the wrath of someone. Proverbs 16:14 is an example of this: Solomon writes, “The anger of a king is a deadly threat; the wise will try to appease it.” What do you think pacify or appease means? To quell the anger, agitation, or excitement of. Just the other day, I saw a horrible incident where these three fans in the football stands were pushing, punching, and yelling at each other. It was turning deadly until someone stepped in, got in the middle of the fight, and calmed them down.

This was a wise man. He took the anger and frustration from two parties and quelled their anger by being a mediator between the parties. Similarly, Yeshua became our mediator between God and man. 1 Timothy 2:5 writes: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the messiah Yeshua.” God has a righteous anger. His anger is toward humanity’s sin and rebellion. And even while we were yet sinners, even when we deserved the wrath of God, Yeshua stepped in our place. He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might receive the righteousness of God. This is the unconditional love we see in Yeshua.

On Yom Kippur, it’s good to be reminded of what atonement means: To pardon or grant forgiveness to, purge and cleanse, reconcile and restore, and to pacify or appease one’s wrath. God accomplished all of this through Yeshua, our Lord and Savior, High Priest, and perfect sacrifice. He is our pure goat and scapegoat. He is our atonement. He is our Yom Kippur. May we give God all the praise, glory, and honor on this holiest of days. Shabbat Shalom.

Sermon written by Chad A. Damitz

7 thoughts on “The 4 Major Themes of Atonement: Reconciling, Pardoning, Appeasing, and Purging

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  1. This was a wonderful way to start my day, as a Sabbath keeper I was so uplifted by this sermon and enlighten by the information into the Jewish faith which has always interested me. I pray for you continued anointing.

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