By the physical death of Jesus Christ on the cross at one place and one time in human history,
- All creation is redeemed from the bondage of evil (Rom 8:20-22).
- The souls of all men are offered: redemption from the bondage of sin, forgiveness of sin, justification before God, adoption into the family of God, regeneration from the death of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness, progress along the path of sanctification, reconciliation with fellow believers, unification with all believers in the Church of Jesus Christ and glorification when our mission in this life is done.
Other ramifications of His physical death may be hidden in realms beyond our comprehension. This physical death, of the incarnate God the Son, is called the substitutionary atonement. It was defined in space and time by Jesus’ own words when He said: It is Finished (John 19:30). By these words and His simultaneous death, the substitutionary atonement was complete.
The crucifixion must be regarded not merely as an occurrence brought about by mere circumstances, but as the great end for which Jesus Christ came into the world; the motive for the atonement is found in the love of God. Scriptures regard the suffering and death of Christ as a propitiation (1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10; Rom 3:25), a redemption (Rom 3:24; Gal 3:13; Eph 1:7) and a reconciliation (Rom 5:10-11; 2 Cor 5:18-19; Col 1:20-22). Jesus was the propitiation which calmed the wrath of God and atoned for the sin of man. He redeemed or bought back each of our souls from the bondage of sin and He allowed God and man to reconcile.
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit knew it would come to this end even before they created the universe and created man in their image. Perhaps the highest reach of spiritual truth in the Old Testament is to be found in a prophecy of Isaiah. Seven centuries before Christ, the person of Jesus and His mission of atonement were revealed to Isaiah, by the exhaustive definite foreknowledge of God, in a story about the suffering and glory of the ‘Servant’ (Isa 52:13 – 53:12). Here is a part of that story (Isa 53:4-6):
Surely He took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment that brought us peace
was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.
Perhaps no greater prophecy has ever been written. No language can be plainer than that He bore the punishment due our sins, and hence His sacrifice was vicarious and expiatory. He was stricken, smitten, afflicted, pierced, crushed and wounded – language which can only indicate that His sufferings were penal inflictions for our sins. Since, by His wounds, we are justified and healed, His death must, in the truest and deepest sense, be regarded as propitiatory. (See also Sections 1.4, 1.24, 1.25, 3.13 and 13.20 of Theology Corner)