At-One-Ment & Atonement Theories

At-One-Ment & Atonement Theories

Does YHWH require blood for forgiveness of sins?

Acts 7 details the stoning of “Stephen.” It’s actually more likely this was originally the story about James the Just (Christ’s brother) and you can see the similarities on this page.  Regardless of who said it, there was a man who was being stoned to death and said, basically, “O Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” or “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Jesus (Yehoshua) also prayed for his murderers to be forgiven, and told us to pray for our enemies also.

Matthew 5:43 you have heard that it has been said, You should love your neighbour, and hate your enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use and persecute you; 45 so that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love them who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the corrupt tax collectors the same? 47 And if you salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the corrupt tax collectors do so? 48 Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Jesus (Yehoshua) is saying our Father is perfect in His love extending to righteous men and sinners alike. He’s extolling how merciful YHWH is, above our human tendencies to hold grudges. YHWH sends sun and rain to grow crops and prosper even the “evil,” which means His mercy (His ways) are higher than our mercy (our ways).

Questions to Consider

If mankind can forgive people who are murdering them in the moment, and we know it’s possible, then why do we think that we’re able to forgive people easier than YHWH can? Why do we think we’re more merciful then He is?

If Jesus (Yehoshua) was forgiving people without needing any blood to be shed (and he did that a lot through his ministry), then why do we think YHWH needs blood to be shed in order for Him to forgive sins?

If Jesus (Yehoshua) was the image of God, and when we see him then we see the Father, the Father necessarily can forgive without blood sacrifices because Jesus (Yehoshua) didn’t need any in order to forgive people.  He spent a lot of time forgiving people while he was alive and he didn’t need anything but faith from them (Matt. 13:58, Mark 6:5-6).

If YHWH needs blood sacrifices to grant forgiveness, then doesn’t that mean that Christ was NOT the image of YHWH, and when we look at him, we do NOT see the Father?

Consider the verse below:

Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For YHWH, your God, is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

If YHWH is seen as a just judge, one who does not take bribes, then why do we think we can get out of the penalty of sins by “paying him off” with blood of an innocent (animal or man)?

The word forgive is defined as granting relief from payment, so that the person no longer has to pay.  If you (or Jesus/Yehoshua) paid your debt off, were you really forgiven for your sins?

At-one-ment

The English word “atonement” originally meant at-one-ment, that is becoming one with God, being reconciled with Him. For the first part of this article I want to discuss the very earliest idea of what it meant to become “one with God.” Then we’ll look into the evolution of the atonement theories.

Jesus (Yehoshua) was said to be one with the Father, and prayed for his followers to be one with the Father in the same way he was.

John 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these (disciples) are in the world, and I come to thee, Holy Father, keep through Your own name those whom You have given me, so that they may be one, just as we are…. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their (the disciple’s) word; 21 so that they all may be one; as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that You have sent me. 22 And the glory which You gave me I have given them so that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and You in me, so that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them, as You have loved me.

According to verse 22 we were given YHWH’s glory (which I believe to be His Holy Spirit/Word/Doctrine/Torah) in order that we may become one with YHWH. We need this “glory” to become one with YHWH, and Jesus (Yehoshua) gave it to us, either by teaching the doctrine and/or the Holy Spirit.

We also see in John 17 the emphasis on people believing based on word-of-mouth (v. 20). You can also call it testimony. In the book of Revelation the dragon makes war with those who keep the commandments and the testimony of Christ (Rev. 12:17). Through our testimony others believe.

How to Tell If You Are One With God

We know that we can be one with God just as Christ was one with God from the above verses. So to figure out how that manifests in our lives, we can look to Christ’s explanation.

John 14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you, I do not speak from myself. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in me, performing His own works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me— or at least believe on account of the works themselves. 12 Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes/trusts me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

In the verses above you can see that Christ is equating the words that he says to people with the Father’s works. This is why he says he’s not teaching his own doctrine, but he is teaching God’s doctrine in John 7.

John 7:16 “My teaching is not my own,” Jesus replied. “It comes from Him who sent me. 17 If anyone desires to do His will, he will know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak from myself.

Just as in John 14:10, Jesus (Yehoshua) says the words he’s speaking, the doctrine he’s teaching, does NOT come from himself, which, incidentally, is why he says don’t call me “good teacher” in Matthew 19:17, and says there’s only one good teacher, that is God.

So, the teaching or doctrine that he is preaching is included in the works the Father is doing through him. It wasn’t his teaching, but the Father was inside of him letting him know what to say and what to do (healing others).

John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When you have lifted up the son of man, then shall you know that I am he (the messiah), and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 29 And He that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please Him. 30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.

Signs of At-One-Ment
  • You don’t do your own fleshy will. You do God’s will (therefore you produce God’s works, not dirty rags).
  • You will teach good doctrine with good fruit (God’s works), not your own. Examples: You love everyone, even “enemies” and treat them as you would treat Christ. You are gentle, not overbearing trying to change people. You are bold, not fearful.
  • You will say you can’t do anything of yourself, it’s YHWH’s Spirit inside that is working.
  • You will be able to do greater things than Jesus (Yehoshua) healing yourself and others. Peter (Kefa) raised the dead, Tabitha, in Acts 9:40, and the only reason people don’t do it today is because you can’t do what you don’t believe you can do. Examples: People heal from emotional and spiritual problems by following Christ’s example and teaching.
  • When you do and say what YHWH wants you to, God’s people will believe your testimony (because of the works He’s doing through you). 

Throughout John 8, Jesus (Yehoshua) is telling people he has a second witness, his Father. When we are one with the Father we have a second witness. The way we get spiritual and physical healing is because the Father is in us healing us as we let go of the sin in our lives. When we have Father’s works proving the Father is with us, then people who are children of God (on the same path of righteousness) will believe our testimony. They will see the good fruit and know that we have God’s seed inside of us (1 John 3) because a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.

Don’t worry if you’re not showing all of those signs yet. We’re on a path, and so the more sin that you release, and the more pure you get, and then the more you will resemble that list.

We’re just not where Jesus (Yehoshua) was currently because most of us were taught that we couldn’t be one with God. I grew up being taught that Jesus was God and that we can’t be sinless because only Jesus was sinless because he was one with the Father. The false doctrine of the trinity or God-man Jesus left us powerless and slaves to sin. But YHWH is faithful and guiding us to the truth again.

The original gospel or “good news” was that we could stop sinning and be free from the consequences of the false doctrines that kept people stuck as slaves to their sin.

As I discuss in the video above, there is a teaching that keeps us slaves to sin in this life. That teaching says that Jesus (Yehoshua) died on the cross to atone for our sins. However, the way the word “atone” is usually meant, today, usually has more to do with making reparations for a wrong that was committed.

This mainstream Christianity belief goes something like this, we sinned against an infinite being (our creator), so we need to make an offering or reparation to say we’re sorry. But we are finite beings and can’t make an infinite offering or reparation so Jesus (Yehoshua) did it for us. They’ll usually believe that Jesus (Yehoshua) is YHWH, an infinite being wrapped in flesh, to make that work. Of course, he never claimed to be YHWH and none of his disciples believed he was.

Since no one in the bible actually believed he was YHWH, this theory of atonement actually came about later, after the deity-of-Christ doctrine crept into early Christianity.

That “replacement” atonement theory relies on Christ paying our sin “debt” to YHWH. If people had their sin “debt” paid then did they really get forgiveness for their sins? As discussed at the beginning of the article, the word “forgive” necessarily means that no “debt” is paid.

Atonement Theory Timeline

This will be an estimated, hypothesis of a timeline, as it’s difficult to figure out exactly when these theories came into being. However, we can make educated guesses with clues, and knowing what the original believers thought. There will be citations for you to research further on your own.

About 30 AD

According to the disciples, and letters in the New Testament portion of the bible, Christ taught that we were to walk as he walked, loving others (even enemies) as ourselves and treating them as we’d treat him, forgiving perceived mistakes, and blessing all we come into contact with. He said that he turns away those who don’t do what he said to do. He told us to keep the law (agape love fulfills the law). The judgement is based on works (see the sheep and goats parable for that). He turns away people who say, “Lord, Lord” but don’t do what he said to do. This means he did not teach people that they could rely on a blood or a sacrifice to cover them in the time of judgement.

Please see the articles on the Essenes for more in-depth information on what they believed, but, basically, they believed that Jesus (Yehoshua) was a man anointed by YHWH with the Holy Spirit and with power (at his baptism) to teach YHWH’s doctrine, so that we could walk the way he walked, in agape love. They also taught that YHWH never commanded the sacrifice of animals, but that men had added that to the scriptures. If the atonement theory of substitution (that mainstream Christianity believes now) had been around, they would have rejected the idea that Jesus (Yehoshua) was a sacrifice completely.

Jesus (Yehoshua) went around forgiving people freely, so long as they had faith in him. He didn’t need to sacrifice animals and he didn’t need to have died to do this forgiving.

No one at this time period thought he needed to die to atone for our sins. In fact, the disciples were shocked that he was saying he was going to die. Furthermore the original scriptures written after his death had more to do with his life and teachings than his death.

The Essenes didn’t trust Paul (they called him “the enemy”) and it wasn’t until much later that people started to think that Christ’s death and resurrection meant more than just a sign (the sign of Jonah, Matt. 12:38-42) to the unbelieving people that he was who he said he was (YHWH’s Messiah).

30 AD to 200 AD

Moral Influence Theory

This theory of atonement, or how to get reconciled back to being “one with God,” is based on positive moral change within the person. It claims the purpose of everything Jesus (Yehoshua) did was to lead humans to make this moral change. He did this by his teachings and the inspiring power of his martyrdom and resurrection. There are some scholars who suggest this view was universally taught by the Church Fathers in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

1) A. J. Wallace, R. D. Rusk, Moral Transformation: The Original Christian Paradigm of Salvation (New Zealand: Bridgehead, 2011)


2) Michael Green, The Empty Cross of Jesus (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 2004; first published 1984), p. 64-5: ‘The simplest and most obvious understanding of the cross is to see it as the supreme example….This is a favourite theme in the early Fathers, as H.E.W. Turner showed in The Patristic Doctrine of Redemption….It can scarcely be denied that much of the second century understanding of the cross was frankly exemplarist.’

3) J. F. Bethune-Baker, An introduction to the early history of Christian doctrine to the time of the Council of Chalcedon (London: Methuen & Co, 1903), p. 351-2 : ‘From this review of the teaching of the Church it will be seen that… in the earliest centuries… the main thought is that man is reconciled to God by the Atonement, not God to man. The change, that is, which it effects is a change in man rather than a change in God. It is God’s unchangeable love for mankind that prompts the Atonement itself, is the cause of it, and ultimately determines the method by which it is effected.’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_influence_theory_of_atonement

From another Wikipedia article on this theory:

It is one of the oldest views of the atonement in Christian theology and a prevalent view for most of Christian history. However, the fact that the concept of God’s redemptive love in Jesus was prevalent even among writers in the early church resulted in some scholars’ claiming that the moral influence theory was universally taught in the second and third centuries.[1][2][3][4][5] See, for example: the Epistle to Diognetus,[6] The Shepherd of Hermas,[7] and works by Clement of Rome,[8][9][10][11] Ignatius of Antioch,[12][13] Polycarp,[14] Clement of Alexandria[15] Hippolytus of Rome,[16] Origen,[17][18] Irenaeus,[19] and Arnobius.[20] Some writers also taught other atonement models in conjunction with it, but Wallace and Rusk claim that the majority of Christian writers in the second and third centuries AD expressed only the moral influence view.[21]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_influence_theory_of_atonement

Around 96 AD (70-140 AD), the letter to the Corinthians was written. In it the writer, believed to be Clement, says:

If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger; but we shall be innocent of this sin, and, instant in prayer and supplication, shall desire that the Creator of all preserve unbroken the computed number of His elect in the whole world through His beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom He called us from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge of the glory of His name, our hope resting on Your name which is primal cause of every creature — having opened the eyes of our heart to the knowledge of You, who alone ‘rests highest among the highest, holy among the holy…

http://www.holodmash.orel.rustore.newadvent.org/fathers/1010.htm

He believed that we were granted understanding and tasked with following Christ’s example.

This theory, the Moral Influence Theory, correlates with the bible, and what Christ and the early followers of Jesus (Yehoshua) taught and did.

100 AD to 1100 AD

Ransom & Christus Victor

Ransom Theory

The early followers of Christ believed him to be the human Messiah the Jews were waiting for. They never believed him to be YHWH, the creator. Around this time period Origen helped to form the trinity belief. You can see our articles dealing with debunking that for more information on why the early followers never believed in it. Origen was also the first to write about the Ransom Theory of Atonement in it’s fullest form.

I attempted to find the original documents on the Ransom Theory but found only other people’s opinions of those documents and no references.

From Wikipedia’s article:

Essentially, this theory claimed that Adam and Eve sold humanity over to the Devil at the time of the Fall; hence, it required that God pay the Devil a ransom to free us from the Devil’s clutches. God, however, tricked the Devil into accepting Christ’s death as a ransom, for the Devil did not realize that Christ could not be held in the bonds of death. Once the Devil accepted Christ’s death as a ransom, this theory concluded, justice was satisfied and God was able to free us from Satan’s grip.

Robin Collins, Understanding Atonement: A New and Orthodox Theory[1]

The problem with using more recent quotes about original documents is that people today have their own beliefs they’re reading back into the text of the original writers. I have a whole article on how the original belief of Satan as a good thing, and he was never seen as an evil, fallen angel bent on destruction of us.

Yes, sin is bad. Mankind fell into temptation and sinned. And sin causes spiritual blindness and leads to more sin. But Christ taught us how to stop sinning. It may be the original writers personified “sin” and labeled it “the devil” or “satan.” If you just replace the word “Satan” with “sin” Christ did free us from it’s grip. That was the whole point. He freed us by teaching us how to live a life without sin, by example, and by parables, and through the Spirit today.

Christus Victor

From Wikipedia’s article on Christus Victor:

“Aulén argues that theologians have incorrectly concluded that the early Church Fathers held a Ransom Theory of atonement. Aulén argues that the Church Fathers’ theory was not that the Crucifixion was the payment of a ransom to the devil, but rather that it represented the liberation of humanity from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil. As the term Christus Victor (Christ the Victor) indicates, the idea of “ransom” should not be seen in terms (as Anselm did) of a business transaction, but more in the terms of a rescue or liberation of humanity from the slavery, and sickness, of sin.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christus_Victor#Aul%C3%A9n’s_arguments

If the early church fathers had this understanding of “atonement” then it still goes along with what the early followers/disciples believed and what Christ actually taught in the scriptures we have today.

When you see the word “Satan” or “Devil” as a fallen angel entity the ransom theory doesn’t make sense (which is why modern theologians reject it saying the Devil shouldn’t have to be paid anything).

According to the bible, YHWH made Jesus (Yehoshua) “lord” over other principalities and powers because he chose good over evil (chose to empty himself and do YHWH’s will instead). Christ was victorious over evil, over sin. We, too, get to sit on the same “throne” according to the book of Revelation when we overcome sin.

Revelation 3:21 To the one who is victorious, I will grant the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.

And YHWH says this:

Revelation 21:6 And He told me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give freely from the spring of the water of life. 7 The one who is victorious will inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.

Note that Jesus (Yehoshua) overcame sin (the devil/death etc.) and then YHWH begat him as His son and Christ inherited the throne (power over death/sin).

Hebrews 1:3 The son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 So He became as far superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is excellent beyond theirs.

After Christ provided purification for sins (taught us how to not sin), then he died, was resurrected and given the throne/name/power over others, just as we get when we conquer sin, after we die to our old life and are born again.

Satan fell like lightening when they preached and healed in Christ’s authority/power (given to him by the Father). It never was about a literal angel named Satan literally falling down. The early followers personified sin and disease as “Satan”. Because Satan, to them, just meant adversarial events or people and situations.

1100 AD to 1500 AD

Satisfaction

Over 1,000 years, it seems, people started to see Satan as a literal fallen angel and they lost the personification viewpoint. To them the Ransom theory of atonement was seen as a literal Satan to whom ransom (payment) must be made.

Around 1094 AD Anselm of Canterbury wrote a book entitled Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became a Man). Note that the idea rests upon the idea that God became a man which was added by the Catholic Church hundreds of years after Christ died.

Anselm didn’t understand why Satan would have to be paid a debt so he created a new theory where the payment goes to YHWH in the form of honor. YHWH deserves all honor in the world, and he says we dishonored him by sinning and that Christ came and gave YHWH back his Honor.

From Atonement History concerning Anselm’s beliefs:

Man by his sin has violated the honor of God and defiled His handiwork. It is not consistent with the Divine self-respect that He should permit His purpose to be thwarted. Yet this purpose requires the fulfillment by man of the perfect law of God, which by sin man has transgressed. For this transgression, repentance is no remedy. Since penitence, however sincere, cannot atone for the guilt of past sin. Nor can any finite substitute, whether man or angel make reparation. Sin being against the infinite God, is infinitely guilty, and can be atoned for only by an infinite satisfaction. Thus either man must be punished and God’s purpose fail or else man must make an infinite satisfaction, which is impossible.

Thus, he concludes Jesus (Yehoshua) had to be a God-man. Notice that he thinks repentance can not satisfy God. By the very definition of forgiveness, his belief means that he doesn’t believe YHWH can forgive people when they sin and subsequently repent. He sees YHWH as needing to be paid off, so YHWH can get “satisfaction” AKA get His “honor” back.

This theory falls apart because there are many incidences throughout the bible where people are forgiven when they repent, A few examples are the prodigal son, the city of Nineveh, and all the people who came to Christ whom he then forgave.

1500 AD to Present

Substitution / Penal

The Reformers, specifically Calvin and Luther, modified Anslem’s Satisfaction theory. The Substitution or Penal theory is that humans had to die because we sinned. Because we had to die, we needed someone who didn’t sin to come and take our place, to die and be a substitute for us.

This theory is also built on the faulty premise that YHWH cannot forgive people for their sins when they repent.

Conclusion

There are a few other theories, but these are the main ones. Obviously mainstream Christianity today holds to the Substitution Theory of Atonement.

The majority of time since Christ died, Christians have held to a different theory of atonement than mainstream Christianity does today. The substitution theory of atonement is a relatively new one.

We can see that as people created their own false doctrines about who Jesus (Yehoshua) was, turning him into the creator of the world, the rest of their doctrines morphed over time too.

You can also see how if you tell someone that believes in the substitution theory of atonement that Jesus (Yehoshua) was not YHWH, they will not believe it, because it is the core of their faith. They need that to be true (in their minds) so that they can have salvation. They cannot understand that YHWH can forgive sins to those who repent (Prodigal son, Nineveh, etc.). Instead they believe that YHWH needs to be paid something to cover our “sin debt.” But that’s not forgiveness, that’s payment.

The Moral Influence theory of atonement says we’re to lead moral lives, walking as Christ walked, doing what he said to do. That leads to conquering sin and “Satan falling like lightening,” symbolically speaking. We are conquerors, currently. In this theory Christ came to save us from being slaves to sin, and he succeeded by his teachings. If this theory is correct, we become one with God (achieve at-one-ment) and shine God’s light into the world for others to see.

The Satisfaction and Substitution theories say Christ did something we could not do (leaving us powerless and still slaves to sin). Because of that the world can’t see any change in us. Then Christ really looks like a failure, because if this theory is true, we can’t possibly stop sinning. Thus he didn’t really defeat the enemy of sin and he didn’t really free us from sin and death. The Satisfaction and Substitution theories say when we die, we will live again, so, basically, we won’t see evidence that he succeeded until we die.

The early followers of Christ believed that we could be “blameless” in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15) and that those who sin are “children of the devil” because the “children of God” don’t sin (1 John 3:8-10).

If children of God don’t sin then they don’t need atonement because there’s nothing to atone for. When we don’t sin we have at-one-ment because we are one with God in plan and purpose, doing His will, as Christ did.

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Reader Comments

  1. My view of the atonement is that the Messiah has fulfilled the law for me. I am now a descendant of Abraham and when I go wrong,as I often do and I repent, the Messiah is my High Priest appearing before the Father. He sends the Holy Spirit guide me.

    1. We have to fulfill it too as our brother Jesus did. If we don’t then he will cast us from his bosom. He says if we don’t

      1. But yes, the Holy Spirit will guide you 🙂 Shalom Sorry, accidentally posted without finishing

  2. I just began reading this article, I see the “ment” in latin as mind. At-one-mind with God. Yaohshai (Jesus/Yehoshua) stated, “I and my Father are one (At one mind)” I translate John 1:1 as “In the beginning was the Mind (Word being Holy Spirit/Wisdom/Wisdom comes from Mind), and the Mind (Word/Holy Spirit/Wisdom) was with God, and the Mind (Word/Holy Spirit/Wisdom) was God. 2 This One (Mind/Word/Holy Spirit/Wisdom) was in the beginning with God.

    In wisdom Ala’aym (God) created everything. The Logos is the mind of Ala’aym. The logos came upon Yaohshai at his baptism and that is when he became one with the Father and began his “preaching” or calling to reveal the true God, his and our heavenly Father. Of course, Word=Logos. Just something I was thinking when I woke up this morning.
    -Shalom shalom

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