Part Twelve

by A.E. Knoch

GOD'S PRESENCE is more than a mortal can bear. It would be death to enter it without protection from the fearful fire of His holiness. Before God can even approach a sinner with His salvation, He must prepare the way. If a nation or the world are to be near enough to Him to accept His gift, their sin must be repudiated by the sacrifice of Christ (Heb.9:26), or they must be conciliated by the death of God's Son (Rom.5:10). These are the preliminary preparations which precede God's evangel, one for the Circumcision when the kingdom is in view. The other for the Uncircumcision while Israel is cast away. By considering each carefully, and contrasting them with one another, it will help us to see how much more glorious is God's grace in this present administration, than that which He bestowed upon the favored nation. Even to the unbeliever of the Uncircumcision God is more cordial and comes closer, than to a member of the Circumcision.

The approach to God is illustrated for us by the various hindrances to access which were found in the tabernacle and the temple. Even the worshiper in Israel, though near, compared with the distance of the other nations, was by no means ushered into the Shekinah glory, which was hid behind curtains and walls that shut him out. Today men may approach right into the august Presence of God, in spirit. Being in Christ, the saints are as near as He. But Israel, as a nation, could not have had Yahweh in their midst without some shelter from His wrath. Outside the walls of His dwelling-place though they were, His indignation against their sin would have burst the bounds and consumed them. In order to protect the nation as a whole, unbelievers as well as believers, a propitiatory shelter was made by means of sacrifice each year, on the day of "atonement," or shelter, which shielded His people for a twelve month, so that He could dwell among them and commune with them.

This annual ceremony was but a shadow of the propitiatory shelter afforded by the sacrifice of Christ which avails from the time it was offered, throughout the remainder of the eons. It is spoken of as the repudiation of sins for the conclusion of the eons (Heb.9:26). Whenever Yahweh deals with Israel, since the suffering of Christ, it is on the basis of His, sacrifice. It is not limited to a year, but lasts to the consummation, including the day of Yahweh and the day of God, the millennium and the time on the new earth, as well as the brief periods from His resurrection until His advent. It cannot, of course, include the present secret administration, in which Israel is not God's people, and God is dealing with mankind as a whole.

The repudiation of sin in Israel, during the conclusion of the eons, has its counterpart and is eclipsed by the conciliation of the world in this administration (2 Cor.5:19). In one case the sacrifice of Christ provided a propitiatory shelter and cleansed the nation from its sins before Yahweh (Lev.16:30). In the other God was in Christ, conciliating the whole world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them. Here we are given a much grander basis for the evangel of the Uncircumcision than that for the Circumcision, corresponding to the greater scope and the higher realm in which it operates. The repudiation of sin is limited to one nation and its mistaken acts, while the conciliation is concerned with all nations and their feeling of enmity against God. For an Israelite, the evangel is a message of forgiveness of sins, a cleansing from unrighteousness, while with us it is an appeal on the part of God Himself for friendship and amity.

The epistle to the Hebrews deals only with the Circumcision aspect of the work of Christ. There is much precious truth in this epistle, but it becomes a hindrance when introduced into the present time. It does not concern the nations and the evangel for them today. Mixed with present truth it creates confusion. Kept separate it enlightens us as to the holy nation and God's dealings with them in other eras. In the ninth chapter Christ is presented as the Antitype of Israel's chief priest and the sacrifices he offered every year in order to keep the nation near. Being under law, and continually breaking its precepts, Yahweh would have been a constant menace to Israel, if they had no shelter from His indignation such as was provided by the sacrifices. He would be forced to afflict them beyond endurance if they were exposed to the righteous requirements of His holy law.

The A. V. tells us that Christ appeared "in the end of the world." This, of course, is impossible, seeing that almost two thousand years have passed since then and the end is not yet. In reality His manifestation marks the commencement of the conclusion of the eons. Just as the offering on the day of shelter, or "atonement" in Israel ushered in a year in which there is a cleansing of sin, so the sacrifice of Christ commences the conclusion of the eons in which sin is repudiated. A year in Israel, with its round of typical festivals, corresponds to the conclusion of the eons, in which the antitype of these festivals are found.

The seven annual festivals in Israel are described in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus. They are, as given in our venerable version, the passover, unleavened bread, firstfruits, fifty days (pentecost), blowing of trumpets, the day of shelter, or atonement, and tabernacles. The passover is a clear intimation of the death of Christ, and the firstfruits is of His resurrection. Pentecost fulfilled the fifty days. From there on there is a break. If Israel had accepted Peter's heralding of Christ and His kingdom at pentecost, then the antitype of the festival of trumpets and the day of atonement and tabernacles would have followed shortly. So it must be viewed from the standpoint of Moses, for the Hebrew scriptures give no intimation of the secrets of the kingdom, first made known by our Lord (Matt.13:35), which account for the period of the book of Acts and a similar era at the time of the end, or for the much longer secret administration (Eph.3:9) in which we live. These hidden epochs are not in view in the tabernacle year, but they must now be included in the conclusion of the eons, although the present era is not concerned with Israel as a nation, and provides a much better approach to God.


In order to grasp the difference between the repudiation of sin in Israel and the conciliation of the world today, we must consider some of the notable features of the type (Lev.16:29-34), and contrast these with the conciliation as set forth by Paul (2 Cor.5:18-21). We are in a new creation in which all is of God, but on the day of atonement there was an admixture of human elements, which greatly modified the mercy manifested. To be sure, they were strictly forbidden to perform any work on that day, but the grace is gone when we read that, if they disobeyed, they would be destroyed from among the people. God cannot allow man to have any part in his salvation, but that is a lesson Israel found very hard to learn. Instead, all are forced to "afflict," or rather humble their souls. If they fail to do this they are to be cut off from the people. No such prohibitions or threats are connected with the conciliation. Man's acts and attitude are entirely ignored in conciliating God toward them. All is done by Him in Christ. Not only has the sinner and offender no part in turning God into his friend, but he is not penalized if he acts or feels contrariwise (Lev.23:26-32).

Under no circumstances can any human deed fit a man for meeting with God. Neither can pride be permitted in His presence. These are basic requirements, for it is fundamentally necessary for God's purpose that man be abased and God glorified. In this elementary expression of God's will these things are definitely demanded, today they are only implied. The difference between Yahweh's provision for nearness in Israel and God's approach to the sinner today show a decidedly different spirit. In Israel there were requirements, and these were enforced with threats. One working would be cut off; the proud man would be destroyed. Nothing is said of feelings or of friendship. There is no conciliation or reconciliation. They were under law, and this hindered the outflow of God's heart. They still were on the false footing of works, even though it was rigidly excluded on the day of shelter, or "atonement."

We object to the term "atonement," but must use it in order to preserve the connection in the minds of those who are accustomed to the Authorized Version. The definition at-one-ment is especially unfortunate, for this denotes friendship and reconciliation, the very thing which was lacking in Israel, but which is found in the evangel for the world today. The Hebrew word kphr is almost identical with the English cover, and this is the meaning usually assigned to it by scholars. The concordant method gives us a closer definition. Another Hebrew word, kse, demands the word cover, for it fits its many occurrences perfectly. A close study will show that the word often rendered "atonement" really de-notes shelter. It shields or protects from God's indignation, which is due to their sins and lawlessnesses. Being under the law, the whole nation was in grave danger from the divine anger, for they did not only sin, but transgressed. If they had not been under law and God had been friendly, as He is today, there would be no need of a shelter whatever.

One of the saddest results of "applying" these types today is that it gives the sinner an impression which is the very opposite of the truth. Israel and the Circumcision need a shelter from an angry Deity. The Uncircumcision need no protection from a conciliated God. Men are not drawn to Him by such an evangel. They are saved in spite of such preaching. God is misrepresented as though He were against the sinner, as though Christ were to save him from His wrath. That belongs to the Circumcision, not to us. That will be especially needed in the fast approaching day of indignation, after we are gone, and conciliation is withdrawn.

So different is God's attitude today that it is figured under a new creation, and the primitive has passed by. What we have is entirely new. In this all is of God. Who conciliates us to Himself through Christ. God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them (2 Cor.5:18-21). God is not angry, but the opposite. He is not opposed to Christ, but in Christ. He does not grudging pass over a sinner who is sheltered by the blood of Christ, but welcomes all, because He is the first to use and appreciate the work of Christ, and recognizes its value. He stretches out His hand, as it were, in friendship. He has laid aside all enmity, all anger, and beseeches men to do the same. Here are no threats, no force, as well as no works and no pride. No shelter, no "atonement" is needed. The reason is simple. In this new creation, all is of God. He has provided, in Christ, not merely for a shelter from His indignation, but actual justification, His own righteousness, so that the barrier of sin and offense has been removed, and the innate love of His heart is able to come forth without hindrance by man or his works. He is conciliated! All that is needed is for us to receive it and thus be reconciled with God (Rom.5:10,11).

In type this shelter was provided on the so-called day of atonement, on the tenth day of the seventh month (Lev.16:29). As usual, there is much in the type which could not be understood by Israel, because it seemed to contradict God's dealings with them. We are told that, in this day of "atonement," or propitiatory shelter they were to "afflict" or, rather, humiliate their souls, and not to do any work at all. This is exceedingly significant in view of the fact that Israel never heeded its lesson. Their whole attitude toward salvation was, what shall we do? Now, on the one day in the year when the propitiation is to be made, they are to do nothing whatever but to humble themselves. No doubt they sought to obey this injunction on this one day, but its meaning was obscured by its very observance. The very abstention from work was considered a good deed! The self-humiliation was deemed a meritorious act! The sacrifices took a very low place in Israel because they sought salvation by works.


But the greatest glory of our gospel, as compared with the Circumcision is the result of conciliation, as contrasted with their sheltering "atonement." Those who sheltered themselves by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God received a temporary pardon. Their entrance into the promised kingdom was not certain, but depended on their own conduct. In fact many fell away, and the nation as a whole did not enter into God's rest, but was cast away. Many superficial "believers," like the ten thousand talent debtor, refused to extend the mercy he had received to the nations, who owed a much smaller sum. For this their pardon was withdrawn, and they fall into condemnation. Such a salvation is generally preached today. But it is based on the "atonement" and the Circumcision evangel, which is for Israel, not on the conciliation, the gospel of God's grace which is ours today.

What a contrast is our salvation, based upon conciliation! With us all is of God, and we have nothing to do but receive it. God makes Himself our friend, with no reservations or conditions which we can or cannot fulfill. Instead of a temporary pardon we receive righteousness, not one of our own, such as the Circumcision seek, but God's own righteousness. It is as permanent and perfect as ours is evanescent and deficient. And the conciliation is only the foundation, the beginning of a super-structure of grace so superior to that of the Circumcision that there is no adequate word to describe it. Theirs is marred by human effort and failure. Ours is achieved by divine power and magnanimity.

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