Atonement

Reconciliation for All

By him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross.—Colossians 1:20, New Living Translation

Jeff Mezera

Colossians 1:20 is one of the most firm and unwavering promises of God in all of Scripture. All things in heaven and earth will be reconciled to him. All the things created through him (verse 16) will be restored to a former state of harmony with God beginning with the coming of Christ with all his saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

This was the expectation of the nation of Israel. They expected that Christ, the Messiah would come and they knew that the purpose of his coming was for destroying the enemies of Israel and of God.

“In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem … And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:8-10, NASV).

“But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come. … until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. … Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; his kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:18,22,27, NASV).

An example of the expectation of the Jewish hope of the restoration and redemption of Israel can be found in the words of Anna who “continued to speak of him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38, NASV).

The disciples also expected the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. After the death of Christ, they lamented saying that they “were hoping that it was he who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21, NASV). And when Jesus appeared to them following his resurrection, the disciples asked him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

A recent magazine article simply stated the hope of the Jewish people when it said, “When the Messiah comes at the end of time, Jews believe paradise will exist on earth and souls will be reunited with their bodies” (Newsweek, “Visions of Heaven,” August 12, 2002).

The Jewish nation knew these prophecies. They knew what was promised and what would happen to their nation and all of the families of the earth after Messiah’s coming.

Reconciliation

“Thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, Thou hast increased the nation, Thou art glorified; Thou hast extended all the borders of the land” (Isaiah 26:15, NASV).

They knew they were the promised nation of God. They expected not only that their nation would be delivered and exalted above all other nations, but also that their unfaithful nation would be cleansed and faithfulness restored to them.

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: … I will put, my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people … I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Israel would be taught righteousness by the Lord. They knew that not only would Israel be reconciled, but also that all nations including their enemies would be blessed if they would submit themselves to the kingdom of God.

“Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17,18, NASV).

Realization

But their expectations of reconciliation have not yet been realized. “These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39,40).

Jesus also expected this reconciliation, but his expectations were different from those of his disciples. They expected the restoration to immediately come to pass. Jesus expected it to come later.

Israel was a lost people, but they were not left without a savior. Their Messiah, their deliverer, was sent to them; this is why they will not be a lost people forever. “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19).

To whom does this refer? Surely it refers to those to whom the prophecy was given, not to some nation to which it was not directed.

We know from other prophecies that Israel would return to their land and to God’s favor in the last days. We see they are back in their land, but why are they still in unbelief? This too was prophesied. Zechariah 12 tells us of a time when all nations will come against Israel to battle. The Israelites must be in their land for all nations to come against them at Jerusalem. It is at the time this prophecy will be fulfilled that we are told the unbelieving nation of Israel will become a believing nation under God (verse 16).

Judgment

The nation of Israel will be judged at the same time as the rest of mankind, when all will be resurrected to judgment.

There are prophecies that Israel will have their ancient judges restored to them in the kingdom: “And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isaiah 1:26).

“And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for my name’s sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:28,29, NASV).

 This judgment is not only to be upon the twelve tribes of Israel, but upon all mankind in the resurrection of judgment. “Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other; and my people will never be put to shame. And it will come about after this that I will pour out my Spirit on all mankind” (Joel 2:27, 28, NASV).

All who are in their graves, both the righteous and the wicked, are to be resurrected to judgment: “There shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:15, NASV). “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28,29, NASV).

Scripture tells us who will do this judgment work and how long this judgment will take. Christ had promised this judgment to his followers. They are promised to live and reign with him for a thousand years: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them … and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, NASV).

We are told that these will participate in the judgment of men and angels in that judgment day during the reign with Christ over the resurrected masses: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? … that we shall judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:2,3, NASV).

The Lord with his saints will judge resurrected mankind during the thousand years of judgment.

Redemption

We have discussed the reconciliation of the nation of Israel, and also the promise to the saints that they will live and reign with Christ over all who will be resurrected to judgment. But how will this be made possible?

All have been born under Adam’s curse because it was through the transgression of this originally sinless man that all have been born into sin and death: “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men. … So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men” (Romans 5:12,18, NASV).

Not only did God curse the human race, he also cursed the earth: “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19, NASV).

The heavenly Father did this knowing that he would provide a way for the human race and the earth to be released from the curse: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20,21, NASV).

We know that all have been born under this curse, but the Bible provides hope. The Bible tells us there was only one way to remove this curse: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11). “Thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:23, 24). It was through blood that God was able to make atonement, and the blood of a mere sinful man could not do this: “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him” (Psalm 49:7, NASV). Jesus was different. He was sinless, like Adam before he sinned.

“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:26,27).

The blood of Jesus was able to make peace and it is through this peace that reconciliation will be made available to all men in the day of judgment (Colossians 1:20). “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21,22, NASV).

It was the curse that was passed unto all men because of the sin of Adam. It was the blood of Jesus which was able to ransom Adam and satisfy the justice of God. Thus all will be raised in the judgment day since Jesus died not only for those who believe in him, but also for those who do not.

“He himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, NASV). For this reason all who are resurrected in the day of judgment will be educated because the “one act of righteousness … resulted [in] justification of life to all men” (Romans 5:18, NASV).

Education

Not only will everyone be resurrected to judgment for a thousand years, we are told that in the resurrection of judgment they will also come to a knowledge of the truth and will learn righteousness: “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. Let favor be shewed to the wicked” (Isaiah 26:9,10).

“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:3-6, NASV).

We know how the nation to which they were given interpreted these prophecies. We can read and understand them as they are written without the need for special interpretation beyond what is plainly stated.

“The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations” (Psalm 22:26-28).

This kingdom is the one for which we pray, that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, NASV).