In the previous article I began to share my take on the different Atonement Theories such as the Substitution, Penal, and the Christus Victor and Ransom Theory. In this article I will continue with the second step into the Christus Victor and Ransom Theory.
Punishment Vs Forgiveness
Jesus was not punished by God the Father. He did not “pay off” the debt of sin to God by getting punished by God. Yes, sin created a huge debt. Jesus carried that sin and the guilt that came with it, but He did not pay that debt to God. God the Father forgave the debt.
If Jesus “paid the debt, that we could not pay” to God, then it was payment, not forgiveness. Through His death Jesus set up the New Covenant of forgiveness. In this covenant the debt of sin was cancelled not paid for.
The establishing of the New Covenant determined the imminent termination of the Old Sinaitic Covenant. That Old Covenant was abolished at the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem forty years later in 70 AD. Remember, the Temple was the vocal point and central foundation of the ancient Hebrew religion. No Temple meant no Sinaitic Covenant. At the cross, the old creation (all of humanity in the first man Adam) died with Christ. At His resurrection, humanity in Christ became a New Creation. A New Creation, made to live in a New Heaven and a New Earth governed through a New Covenant in Christ.
The ancient Hebrew scripture, the Tanakh, Christians know as the Old Testament, provides us with the creation story as in Genesis 1, and 2. Slightly later, chapters 8 and 9 provide us with the account of a new beginning with Noah and his family. The flood came as a result of the depravity of man’s condition in the earth. God was grieved with man’s destructive effect upon themselves and the land. God’s covenant with Noah was a commitment to maintain the inherent relationship between Creator and creation. His relationship with the natural order is implicit in the act of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, and a re-creation in Genesis 8 and 9 whereby God promised never again to destroy the earth with a flood. This divine pledge was given unconditionally to Noah and to every living creature on earth and was accompanied by the sign of the rainbow. Futurists‘ main problem with Full-Preterism tends to be that this worldview does not teach a terminal ending of our planet. Now why would anyone have a problem with the perpetual preservation of our beautiful planet? Do people want all life and the planet itself to be destroyed? This dark and dreadful expectation of an ultimate destruction of the universe has been fed into the collective human consciousness by religions over many thousands of years. If this model of a worldview is what people have believed all their lives it is likely to be tightly integrated with their sense of identity. It is going to take a lot to be able to help people see otherwise. This is where the power of the Gospel truth is more than enough to set people free from that age-old deceptive matrix and help them to embrace a worldview that provides hope for future generations and is Biblically sound.
The flood became somewhat of a “reset” in the progress of the human/creation history. Both the account of the beginning of creation as well as the flood are immediately followed by sacrifices to establish covenants based on God’s promises to man. God makes promises, swears by an oath to fulfill these promises, and cuts the covenant to bind Himself to these promises. So here we have both the Adamic and the Noahic covenants. What these and all other covenants have in common is that they all involve God, and people, and notably the establishing or resetting of the foundations of creation i.e. Heaven and Earth. What modern Christianity has sorely missed is the significance of these factors. These God-initiated Covenants are always immediately linked to the creation of a heaven and earth. That created world becomes the home for the people of the covenant and their God. Follow the story-line of Abraham and notice how God calls him to leave his country and his fathers house and promises him a land that He would show him. God then cuts the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15 and bind Himself to the promises He gave Abraham. The Abrahamic Covenant with God’s promise that through his seed (singular) all nations would be blessed came into fulfillment when Christ was born.
Hebrews 11: 8-10 King James Version (KJV)
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Yes, God led Abraham to the land of Canaan, but his heart was set on something bigger and better. Abraham received the fulfillment of God’s promise of an eternal home. At the Parousia and the resurrection of the dead (68-70 AD) Abraham went to his home in heaven, the city whose builder and maker is God and so to be with the Lord forever.
In 2 Samuel 6 King David took the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David, and many sacrifices were made to renew (reset) the Sinaitic Covenant. In chapter 7 God gave Nathan the Prophet a message for David and declared:
2 Samuel 7 King James Version (KJV)
16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
This is also known as the Davidic Covenant as God swore by Himself to perform this promise. Of course, we know that Jesus came from the direct genealogical line of King David of the tribe of Judah. The Davidic covenant and promise were fulfilled in Christ after His ascension when He appeared before the Ancient of days and was crowned King of Kings and took His place on the promised throne of David.
Daniel 7 King James Version (KJV)
13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
The time of King David also marks the time of transition, a forty-year period as I recall. It was the time where the Tent of Meeting with the Ark of the Covenant would transition from a mobile tent to ultimately the first Temple building in Jerusalem under King Solomon’s reign.
In other articles we have shown how the concept of Heaven and Earth in scripture was ancient Hebrew Covenant language. Not always does it refer to our literal universe. Sometimes it does and other times it does not. Sometimes the ideas overlap. Among Preterists there also tends to be a diversity of views on theses matters. Some have become expert apologetics and endlessly debate among themselves about the finite details of their eschatological studies. This can be important, but I think also hugely distracting. Especially when people follow a rabbit trail and end up debating their own debates. I love to debate Theology with sincere people, but where it loses its practicality we have gone too far. There are some Preterists who would point out that the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2 is predominantly symbolical covenant language and cannot be taken as a literal account of creation. I believe that is an incomplete picture and that they are both right and wrong. The creation story is as much literal as it is also representative of covenant language. The reason I say that is because the Pentateuch was written to the ancient Jewish people initially. The whole set up of the Tanakh was to be a collection of books providing accounts of how covenant people with a covenant-making God began and evolved. There are many other than Biblical ancient accounts of how the creation came about. Whether their sources are Celtic, Hindu, Zoroastrian, or Babylonian, none of them use the principles of a covenant as the basis for a relationship between God and man. When we begin to read and view the whole Bible through the model of the different types of covenants a whole new perspective opens.
Hebrews 1 King James Version (KJV)
10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
You will know that the author of Hebrews had a very specific purpose of proving the superiority of Christ over angels, the Levitical Priesthood, the sacrificial system, and Moses, and that the Old Sinaitic Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. Reading Hebrews 1:10-12 at first impression seems to talk about the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2. On closer study it becomes clear that it was not actually the point of the author to refer to Genesis 1 and 2 as an isolated topic. The writer stays within context throughout the whole book, like an actor stays in character after the play. Hebrews 1:10-12 is a reference to covenant language and is pointing to the people of Israel and the Old Sinaitic Covenant with God. This usage of the terms “Heaven and Earth” as a means to refer to the covenant people of God is a common pattern throughout the whole Bible.
Deuteronomy 32:1 King James Version (KJV)
1 Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Here God used the terms Heaven and Earth, but He was speaking to His covenant people Israel. The ancient Jews did not always mean „the physical universe“ when they spoke of heaven and earth together. In Biblical apocalyptic language, „heaven“, “Sun”, “Moon” and “Stars” can refer to “governments and rulers”, and „earth“ can refer to a nation of people.
Isaiah 1 King James Version (KJV)
1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
In Jewish literature, the Temple was a portal connecting heaven and earth. They called it the „navel of the earth“ and the „gateway to heaven“. The Jerusalem Temple had been built to look like a microcosm of the universe.
Psalm 78 King James Version (KJV)
69 And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.
The actual holy place and most holy place inside the Temple building were constructed like earth and heaven. The courts outside represented the sea. The Jewish first century historian Josephus mentions, two parts of the tabernacle were „approachable and open to all, but one was not”. He explains; „When Moses distinguished the tabernacle into three parts, and allowed two of them to the priests, as a place accessible and common, he denoted the land and the sea, being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men”. (Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews. 3:181). The veil between the accessible and inaccessible parts of the Temple was designed to represent the entire material world during Jesus’ day. The veil was composed of four materials representing the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Heaven was beyond this material world. It was behind the curtain.
Outside the Temple’s microcosm of “heaven and earth,” the courts looked like the sea.
In Talmudic tradition, Rabbis described how the inner walls around the Temple looked like waves of the sea. From heaven and earth inside the temple, one could look out at the sea surrounding the land. Ancients believed the earth had one giant land mass surrounded by sea. The temple reflected that cosmology.
So now we can see how the covenants involve God and His covenant people within its own created universe, made up of heaven and earth.
We must also look at context.
Hebrews 1 King James Version (KJV)
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Now if you realize that the word “worlds” is not talking about planets, or our physical universe, but that this is the Greek word Aion, meaning Age and in this verse multiple Ages, then we suddenly have context. In Old Testament Covenant Ages God spoke through Prophets, but in those last days of the Old Sinaitic Covenant Age God spoke to the Jewish people through Jesus who was appointed heir of all people (things), and by whom He also (made) created, designated and instituted the Ages. The word “things” seems to me a poor attempt to try and hide the fact that it also means “everyone”. Again, context dictates that “things” here does not make sense at all, and the word “people” very much does. The same context from the bigger perspective would suggest that this people here is in fact referring to the twelve tribes of the Jews as Jesus came to His own first and this book of the Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians under threat of apostatizing their faith in Christ and turning back to the Law
Angels played an important part in the Hebrews religion. As you read through the Old Testament it is easy to see why as there are many accounts where Angels were involved in either delivering the people of Israel or executing judgment on them. Hebrews 1 makes the comparisons between the Angels and Jesus showing the enormous superiority of Christ over angels.
Galatians 3 King James Version (KJV)
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
The Old Sinaitic Covenant and the Law were linked to the Ministry of Angels. The book of Hebrews 1 shows how Jesus and the New Covenant is much more superior to the Old.
Hebrews 1 King James Version (KJV)
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Modern western Christianity has assumed that the heirs of salvation are those who put their faith in Christ and then obtain eternal redemption. Though this is not completely false, it overlooks the original intent of this verse. The book of Hebrews was written around 65 A.D. shortly before the fall of Jerusalem. It was written during a time when the apostasy of Jewish-Christian believers, specifically in Jerusalem, had become frequent by letting go of their loyalty to Christ and turning back to the law of the Old Sinaitic Covenant. With this historical backdrop, the book of Hebrews becomes fascinating to read. It is a strong exhortation, uncompromisingly expressed, to hold on to the faith in the last days that led up to the Parousia 68-70 AD. We know there was a lot of pressure on the believers because of the threat of persecution. I tend to believe that this is also the reason why the author of the book remained anonymous, even it is clearly Paul’s writing style.
During His ministry Jesus had taught the disciples that they should flee the city when they would see the beginnings of the siege by the roman armies. The salvation spoken of here in Hebrews 1:14 is speaking of the promise of deliverance from that imminent destruction that was to come upon the city. It was a promise that there would be supernatural deliverance for the believers by the ministry of the Angels.
Comparing Hebrews 1:10-12 with chapter 8 we can draw sincere inference that the context in the book is the ending of one (Old) Covenant, allowing the other more superior (New) Covenant its rightful place.
Hebrews 8: 8-13 King James Version (KJV)
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
And notice how this book draws the covenants together with the ideas of heaven and earth.
Hebrews 12 King James Version (KJV)
24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. 25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
First of all, the whole of the New Testament is about the change of Covenants. The book of Hebrews proves the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant. The book of Revelation depicts a catastrophic ending of that Old Sinaitic Covenant and the ratifying and confirming of the New Covenant with the arrival of the Kingdom of Christ. Covenants were always established within the construct of its own corresponding universe. It would be the home and dwelling for God and His people with the relevant covenant as the basis for the union between God and man. With the breaking or ending of a covenant came also the end and destruction of its universe.
What has all this to do with the Christus Victor and Ransom theory? A huge amount.
When Christ died on the cross, He sealed the New Covenant in His blood.
This New Covenant is a covenant of forgiveness. What are the most basic strategic grounds for satan to attack mankind? It is accusation. He has many names, and one of them is “the accuser of the brethren”. For any allegation to have any footing there must be evidence of guilt (debt). How can anyone accuse you if they have no grounds for accusing you. If you have no debt, you have nothing to pay off. No credit company or bank can claim your house or car if you have paid off all your debt. If your debt has been cleared and cancelled, then you don’t even have to pay your debt.
Colossians 2: 14-15 King James Version (KJV)
14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
This expression „handwriting of ordinances“ is not referring to the Law of Moses as many erroneously assumed.
The Thayer Greek Lexicon of the New Testament states the meaning of the word “handwriting” – cheirógraphon is: „a note of hand or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to be returned at the appointed time“, in other words, a note of debt or a note of guilt.
Humanity owed a debt to God because of sin, yet, according to the New Covenant in Christ, God forgave and cancelled the debt.
According to Colossians 2:8 some of the Colossian believers had been deceived into thinking if they did not adhere to the philosophies, and pagan traditions of their region they would incur a note of sinful guilt. The Apostle Paul here quickly reminds them that through Christ their old life was circumcised, as in cut away from them, and they were therefore dead to those pagan demands.
Please note that the principles explained here is not about people owing a debt to finance companies, a bank, or taking responsibility to walk in love and apologize or forgive someone. This study is about our relationship with God.
If we believe we stand guilty before God, as owing Him a debt, we have the following issues:
1. We are not believing the New Covenant in Christ provided eternal forgiveness.
2. We harbor a sense of guilt not understanding our forgiven and righteous state in Christ before God. As a result, we would automatically expect justice and judgment, in the form of punishment.
3. The first two points put people in a vulnerable position and provide opportunity to accusation from the accuser of the brethren.
Authority or opportunity?
Telling people that if they sin, they open the door to the devil, and are therefore giving him authority to attack their life is wrong on so many levels. The devil does not have any authority ever, even if a person commits a stupid act (as some still call it sin). The devil can only seek opportunity where he can with those who give it him by their „sin and guilt consciousness“. And so people use their own authority in Christ to give the devil opportunity. Authority and opportunity are two separate things.
Revelation 21:1 King James Version (KJV)
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away;
The popular futurist dispensationalist worldview, suggests that there will be a physical New Heaven and Earth in our future after the great tribulation. This is a complete denial of the covenant language explained earlier.
Revelation 21:1 is positioned in the middle of a dramatic pictorial account of a change of the covenants, in 70 AD. This had a cosmological impact. It shook the literal heaven and the literal earth, and it shook the spiritual realms. It was the shaking, which caused the utter destruction and removal of the old covenant world with its heaven and earth and all the elements of the Old Sinaitic Covenant. Are these some of the earthquakes Christ spoke in Matthew 24? I believe so. A New Heaven and a New Earth is the reality of the New Covenant in Christ where righteousness, grace and mercy reigns. It is a New order of governance, a world that is home to the people of the New Creation in Christ. A spiritual reality. Those who cannot yet see themselves as forgiven and made righteous in Christ will feel like they are on the outside of that world, even though they are not. We must tell them the truth if they will hear it. What makes this so huge is that satan cannot access the New Heaven and Earth. He cannot access a world where people believe they are perfectly forgiven, righteous, unconditionally loved by God and fully and completely accepted. You can’t accuse a righteous person.
John 12 King James Version (KJV)
31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
All of this happened at the change of the covenants in the first century 70 AD. Satan was cast outside the realm of the New Heaven and Earth.