Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 10, Number 35, August 24 to August 30 2008

The Extent of the Atonement

Chapter 5

By Charles W. Bronson

Charles Wesley Bronson was born and reared in the tiny village of Muncie, Kansas during the worst part of the depression. This was in the dust bowl and the parched, cracked ground cried for rain from above. These were days when men preached righteousness from God's Holy Word. The author's father was an old time Baptist preacher and his sermons left an indelible impression on the author who was hardly more than a baby. He seems to have caught some of the charisma that rested on his father for he too, when he came of age. felt impelled to preach the gospel of Gods' grace. He has had wide and varied experiences in the ministry and has held various pastorates including some 7 years as a missionary to Korea. While there he learned to love the Korean people while in the service of his country there during the Korean War. His only desire has been to preach Christ crucified, saying "He must increase, but I must decrease." He feels perhaps the message most needed today is the fact that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent. The author is available for evangelistic service wherever the Lord may lead and wants to share his message with the Lord's people everywhere.



The Old Testament sacrifices, when seen as a whole, form a complete picture and point to Christ and His work.
The picture is now completed, and so true to the original that, when compared with the reality in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can have no difficulty in recognizing it. 1
From the earliest recorded history of man in the Bible, we have a record of sacrifice for sin.
Even in Genesis an altar burns; even there blood begins to mean some moral mystery. 2
Concerning the antiquity of sacrifices, Symington says that the practice goes back into remote history.
The practice of offering sacrifices to God existed in the remotest ages of the world. The infliction of death on a living creature, in the way of religious worship, did not originate, as many suppose, with the Jews. When the Israelites entered the holy land, they found its aboriginal inhabitants addicted to the practice. Certain forms of it being expressly denounced in the law of Moses, is positive proof of its existence prior to the promulgation of that extraordinary document. In the records of heathen nations also . . . traces of it are to be found; and the sacred history . . . contains abundant proof of the antiquity of sacrifices. 3
The fundamental idea, of course, in the sacrifices, was that of substitution. Also implied therein was atonement, redemption, vicarious punishment and forgiveness. 4 It must be acknowledged that all sacrifices were not expiatory. "Some were impetratory . . Others were eucharistical, and others again were expiatory, or designed to obtain the forgiveness of sins of which the offerer acknowledged himself guilty." 5

There was no actual power in the sacrifices of themselves to take away sin and guilt. They were symbolical of "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." (Jno. 1:29) "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats would take away sins." (Heb. 10:4)

Under the economy of the Old Testament there were four distinct kinds of sacrifices: 1) The burnt offering, 2) The sin offering, 3) The trespass offering, and 4) The peace offering. All sacrifices were of one of two kinds: either on the ground of communion with God (burnt, and peace offerings) or intended to restore communion that had been disrupted by sin (sin and trespass offerings). The sin offering was the most important of all offerings and could be either public or private. 6

The Jews were aware of the fact that the types and sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to the Messiah. They were cognizant of the fact that the basic idea in the sacrifices was substitution. 7 According to Rabbinical teaching, "the offerer, as it were, puts away his sins from himself and transfers them upon the living animal; as often as any one sins with his soul . . . he puts away his sin from himself and places it upon the head of the sacrifice and it is an atonement for him" 8

In private sacrifice, the following prayer was made by the person offering the sacrifice:

I entreat, O Jehovah: I have sinned, I have done perversely,
I have rebelled,
I have committed (naming the sin, etc.); but I return in repentance and let this be for my atonement. 9
It is interesting to note that non-Israelites were not allowed to bring any sacrifice with the exception of the burnt offering. 10

All of the sacrifices commanded under the law had to do with those under the old covenant. Those under the law were obligated to observe these commandments:

Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people; and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words. (Ex. 24:6-8)
There were special provisions for Gentile proselytes. Those who joined themselves to God's people were given special privileges and responsibilities not accorded other foreigners. 11 Uncircumcised foreigners, however, were not allowed in the temple or sanctuary. (Acts 21:28-29)

It would appear that foreigners who joined themselves to Jehovah and His worship were treated not unkindly by Israelites. A case in point is Ruth, who was a Moabitess, but left the land of her nativity and became the great-grandmother of David. (Ruth 2:11-12)

It must be recognized that all who performed the ceremonies or rituals commanded by the Mosaic law were not sincere worshippers. But those who sincerely repented of their sins and offered the sacrifices in faith were saved. 12 (See Psalm 32:1-2) In his note on Leviticus 1:4. Scofield comments:

The laying on of the offerer's hand signified acceptance and identification of himself with his offering. In figure it answers to the Christian's faith accepting and identifying himself with Christ. The believer is justified by faith and his faith is reckoned for righteousness because his faith identifies him with Christ, who died as his sin offering. 13
Under the Old Testament dispensation, sincere believers were saved by faith in the promise of the coming Messiah and exercised faith in Him through the blood of the sacrifices. Salvation was limited to those who did so, obviously.

Further, it is obvious that of the various Gentile nations, only a small proportion of the multitudes identified themselves with the worship of Israel. There was no salvation outside of Israel. (Jno. 4:22)

Finally, the sacrifices for sin were made only for those who offered them, either as individuals or as a corporate nation.

For those who placed their faith in the promises of the coming Messiah and died in the faith Christ made atonement. However, it cannot be supposed that Christ died for the unbelieving who were already in Hell prior to His coming, having perished in their sins.


In the Passover we can see very clearly that God placed a distinction between the Israelites and the Egyptians. Possibly some provision was made for the mixed multitude that followed Israel out of Egypt. The blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the door posts of the houses of the Israelites and possibly the mixed multitudes found refuge in their houses. However, no provision was made for the nation of Egypt.
I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt. . . And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
If the Passover is a type of the atonement (and it is, I Cor. 5:7) then certainly it is obvious that in its typology the atonement is limited in both its nature and application.


The Ark which Noah built is also "a type of Christ as the refuge of His people from judgment." 14 In the Ark eight persons were saved from the deluge and the rest of the world that then was perished. (I Pet. 3:20) The Noahic flood, according to the Holy Scriptures, covered the face of the whole earth. 15 It is conceivable that the population of the antediluvian world was much more extensive than is commonly thought. According to the findings of archeology, their civilization was highly developed. 16

The ark itself was fully as large as modern ocean-going vessels, having a deck area of about 95,700 square feet, a volume of 1,396,000 cubic feet and a gross tonnage of 13,960 tons. 17

As to its typical connection with the atonement, the gopher wood of which it was made probably represents death, in that it was made from trees that were cut down. It was prophesied that Christ should be "cut off" out of the land of the living. (Isa. 53:8, Dan. 9:26. Also, see Jer. l0:3). 18

The pitch used in the ark provided a double covering, keeping out the waters of judgment and the Hebrew word for pitch has an etymological connection with the word for atonement. 19 Perhaps the pitch was obtained from the gopher tree itself. 20

In considering the extent of the atonement in connection with the ark, the number of persons saved was limited. The design of the ark was limited, grand vessel that it was, for it is inconceivable that it was ever intended that it should ever carry the entire population of that world to safety.

The Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement was an annual event when the high priest offered sacrifices for himself and the sins of the people. The high priest could only enter into the holiest of holies on this day. The penalty for doing otherwise was death. It was a most solemn and holy occasion and involved elaborate ritual as concerning the high priest's vestments and the sacrifices to be offered.

Of particular importance were the two goats, one of which was offered as a sin offering and the other was the scapegoat. The blood of the sin offering was brought within the veil of the inner sanctuary and sprinkled upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. It is repeated again and again that this sin offering and its shed blood was for the sins and transgressions of Israel. Concerning this Pink observes that Aaron did not make any atonement for the sins of the Midianites and Ammonites. 21

After the sin offering was slain and the blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat, the live goat was brought forth. The high priest placed both of his hands on the head of the live goat and confessed all of the sins of the children of Israel. The goat was sent away into the wilderness by the hand of a "fit man" and turned loose. Plainly, the goat typically bore their sins away and removed them from the people. We are expressly told that the scapegoat bore the sins of Israel. We read in Isaiah 53:4, concerning Christ, "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." In Psalm 103:12 we find that "as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." The atonement of Christ is effectual, it effectually removes sin from God's people.


1. Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services. pp.97-98.

2. Joseph Parker, Preaching Through The Bible, vol.1, p.368.

3. William Symington, On The Atonement And Intercession Of Jesus Christ, p.84.

4. Edersheim, op. cit. p. 81.

5. Symington, op. cit., p.90.

6. Edersheim, op. cit., pp. 99-106.

7. Ibid, pp. 96-98.

8. Edersheim, op. cit., p. 92.

9. Ibid, p.88.

10. Ibid, p.100.

11. Merrill. C. Tenney, Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p.812.

12. Edersheim, op. cit. p.102.

13. C.I. Scofield, The New Scofield Reference Bible, p.127 (2)

14. Scofield. Ibid. p.11.

15. Tenney, op. cit., p.284.

16. Henry Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook, p.12.

17. Ernest S. Williams, Systematic Theology, p.232.

18. F.E. Marsh, Why Did Christ Die, p.66.

19. Ibid, p.48.

20. F.W. Grant, Atonement In Type, Prophecy And Accomplishment, p.30.

21. Arthur W. Pink, The Satisfaction Of Christ, p.277.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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