by Brian G. Bettes
The Day of Atonement is rich with symbolism. As we approach that day, my mind turns to one of the more significant meanings it offers. The word atonement has significant meaning in Scripture. In the vast majority of cases, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, the word translated into the English as atonement can be synonymous with the words reconcile or reconciliation. Whether in the singular or the plural, Hebrew or Greek, the vast majority of the time these words are interchangeable in meaning.
Why is this so important?
Why, during the fall festival season in the period between celebrating the return of Jesus Christ, which includes our victory as the resurrected or changed Children of God, and the celebration of Him establishing His 1000-year reign, does God have us focus on reconciliation again? I mean didn’t we already focus heavily on being reconciled to God, and to one another, through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ during Passover and Unleavened Bread? Why does God have us turn our attention to this subject once again at this time?
Checking the definition of the word reconcile with Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we find that it means:
To bring about a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups; to solve a dispute or end a quarrel; to return to a friendly relationship after a dispute or estrangement.
There is a relationship that was broken in the Garden of Eden that has not been repaired since. Mankind has been estranged from God since he had a “dispute” with Him over who should be allowed to rule man’s mind—him or God. That relationship is still broken.
Though the path to forgiveness for sin and living a renewed (resurrected) life for God, which equates to reconciliation to our Father, has been made possible on an individual personal basis through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the consequences of sin (death) still continue to plague those who live in this world, including us. Individuals who have been called to a relationship with Jesus by the Father have been able to be reconciled with Him. On the other hand, the rest of the world, even the creation itself, has moved, and will continue to move, in the direction of death. Again, this is due to the broken relationship that occurred in Eden. While the spring holydays focus more on the restoration of the individual and personal relationship with our Father, the fall holydays appear to zero-in on the restoration of all people and things, the creation included, to God. How so?
Scripture shows that the being we know as Jesus, originally simply called Logos, or “The Word,” created all things (John 1:1-2). The creation that He made was very good (Genesis 1:31). Since man was given the responsibility to take care of that creation (Genesis 2:15), it has always been assumed that, had mankind not sinned against God, the beauty that was extant in the Garden of Eden would have eventually been spread around the entire world.
Mankind was not the only thing that was affected by the sin that occurred that fateful day in Eden. Man was forced out of a magnificently blessed environment to till the ground outside of that environment. The indication is that even the earth that Adam had to work with thereafter was not quite the same as in the Garden.
Romans 8:19-22 talks about the whole creation currently groaning in labor pains, awaiting the birth of the God’s Children, so it can be delivered from the futility it has been subjected to.
One of the representations of the Day of Atonement that the Church of God has traditionally held is that Satan and his influence will be removed—chained and locked away—for the period of the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ (compare Leviticus 16:20-22 with Revelation 20:1-3). If this representation is accurate, then what we see is that the Day of Atonement symbolizes the removal of the source of the broken relationship that started in the Garden of Eden.
Even if the dirt, or earth, that Adam had to work with outside of Eden were not different than inside, since that time mankind’s decisions regarding how to manage, or “dress and keep,” the earth have been very hard on the planet at best, and outright devastatingly destructive at worst.
Of course I am not talking about the significance of Atonement being about the earth being returned to its right state as if that was the all-important factor here. What I am talking about is that, once Satan and his influence no longer have sway over the minds of humans, it is then that all of creation, mankind, animal kind, plant kind—all creation—can then start to be reconciled to God. All things cannot be reconciled to the Father until the source of death and destruction is removed. That is one of the significant symbolisms of the Day of Atonement.
With us personally, Jesus and the Father help us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) while we continue to exist within a system that is still broken. As the advanced leadership team to reign with Christ for 1,000 years, this is for our growth and development. Jesus will not do that during His millennial reign. He will show what incredible things can be done, how mankind and all created things will work together and complement one another as it was intended to be before Eden’s broken relationship (Isaiah 11:6-9). Atonement is about reconciling all peoples and all things back to the Father through Jesus. That is done, in part by removing Satan and his influence, replacing it with God’s influence as waters cover the seas (Isaiah 6:9).
Jesus Christ, the second Adam, will then be able to do what the first Adam did not do. He will be able, during the next 1,000 years, to build a society that will spread around the world where all things are done in righteousness. I am always excited about the significance of Atonement as it relates to the fixing of a broken relationship between God, mankind, and all of creation; it is the reconciliation of all things back to our Father.
Atonement presents a reset button that takes everything back to the beginning when all things were righteous, beautiful, innocent, holy, and pure. What is really cool about Atonement for me is that it is a return to Eden.