The concept of atonement has developed gradually as the theology of the Christian Church matured to what it is today. It has become a concept of at-one-ment with God through the washing away of our sins by the death of Jesus Christ. His death has made us one with God through the washing away of our sins, achieved with the shedding of the Blood of Jesus.
While such a philosophy sounds beautiful and pleasant, it hardly corresponds to reality. There is nothing in the words of Jesus that points to a conception that is even close to a vicarious washing away of the sins of mankind through His death. Quotations in 1Cor15:3 that “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” have been used to defend this concept and in fact the entire letter to the Hebrews, which is of an uncertain authorship supports this concept more or less.
Other passages like the one in 1Peter1:18-19 “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ, like a lamb without blemish or spot.” Also in 1Peter2:24-25 “He Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…By his wounds you have been healed.” This has further been backed up by quoting Isaiah 53 where the whole chapter was dedicated to describing the characteristics of the Messiah, and in which indeed His sufferings were clearly depicted.
It is true that Jesus died for the sake of our sins. It is true that He died for the sake of the Truth that He brought. It is true that He sacrificed Himself so that we might live, but it is all a question of how the whole thing has been interpreted. Just because the suffering of the Messiah had been predicted does not mean that His death was in the Will of God.
Prophesying an event has nothing to do with God sanctioning the event that was foreseen. It was nothing but a description of how He would fare on earth among human beings. It is a further accusation that having had that prophecy for thousands of years we still allowed the event to happen since it must be averred that the purpose for which this prophecy was given was as a warning for us to change our ways and to prevent the dastardly murder of the Son of God.
Isaiah should not be quoted as evidence that God wanted His Son to die but should be quoted as an accusation of the wickedness of this mankind, who in spite of such a warning still allowed themselves to be used as executioners by the Antichrist (Lucifer).
At this juncture, we must ask ourselves what purposes do prophecies serve? As mentioned above, they are meant to be warnings either to individuals or to a group of people as to what may happen to them if they fail to mend their ways. It is not a foregone conclusion that prophecies will be fulfilled. They relate to the condition of the concerned individual at that particular moment. If the individual changes spiritually, then the prophecy by all means will not be fulfilled, but if he remains in the same spiritual condition, then the prophecy will be fulfilled.
At the time that the prophecy was made concerning Jesus, it was seen that mankind was so evil that in that present spiritual state, unless something drastic happens in terms of changing our ways for the better, we would have been so given to evil that we would even go so far as to commit this crime against the Son of God. From the time the prophecy was given and the time Jesus incarnated on earth, evidently no progress at all had been made spiritually, hence the fulfilment of this prophecy.
The evidence that Jesus did not want this was in His asking God to “take this cup away from Him”. If His death was willed by God, Jesus would even have embraced it with smiles and joys considering the love He had for mankind. But He fought it as recorded in His Passions.
As to the question of whether God could have saved Him like, for example, bringing Him down from the cross by some arbitrary action, we must say that God does not indulge in arbitrary actions. Christ had made a decision to bring His Message among mankind, no matter what the consequences were. He accepted all that could happen to Him and in spite of all the dangers and the risk of physical suffering He still came.
This is the Sacrifice. When He was faced with threat of death while He was being questioned in the Sanhedrin, He did not deny His origin or His Teaching. This was the last trump card of the darkness, hoping that Jesus, on the threat of physical suffering perhaps might deny His origin or His Teaching. He was prepared to shed His Blood so that we might continue to have His Teaching. Surely we know people who have died for their beliefs. This is an example of such great sacrifice. In fact, the greatest example of a Sacrifice to save the whole of mankind from the clutches of darkness.
If He had relented, Jesus would have been a footnote in history, and we would not have had the way open to us for our salvation. But this death does not wash away sins. What washes away sin is the strict adherence to His Teaching. There is no automatic washing away of sins just like that. We would first have to accept Him, believe in Him and then work hard to change our ways. That is why He was ready to die for the knowledge He brought because He knew that it was this knowledge that was the saving grace for mankind. The knowledge of love, compassion, doing good and pursuing righteousness.
This knowledge has been bought at an enormous price. The more reason, we should learn what this Teaching is all about and act accordingly. Nor is this message different in Pauline Christianity. Paul, in so many of his letters urged people to love one another and adhere to the Teaching of Jesus. There are several verses one could quote to this effect. In fact, the whole tone of his letters testify to the importance of this Message and the strict adherence to them.
To achieve atonement for our sins therefore, we would have to adhere to the Message of Jesus in its entirety. Not just hearers but also doersas Paul said. As Jesus said, not every one who says to me Lord, Lord but those who do the Will of His Father will enter the Kingdom. Doing the Will of God is nothing more than obeying and in Mathew 7:24 we read “Every one then who hears these my words and does them would be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”