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THE ATONEMENT OF ISAAC


In order to create all the prerequisites for the atonement of mankind from sin and death through one man, God has taken some important steps to redeem that man from the world, but through Israel, who was designated and dedicated to the role of the redemptive ‘sacrifice’. God first chose Abraham to make a covenant based on the promise of his offspring through which all nations would be blessed. In order for this covenant to be effective, God required Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, through whom the promised offspring was to come (Genesis 22: 1,2). This request implied a legal effect, because with that request all Abraham’s offspring, which had to come after Isaac, had been killed and sacrificed. If Isaac’s death had occurred, none of them would have been born, not even Jesus. They would have died with Isaac and the world could not be blessed. However, God eventually prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son, and instead prepared a ram, that was apparently found there for a reason.

“Abraham went, took a ram, and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son.” (Genesis 22:13)

Instead of Isaac’s death, the blood of the sacrificed animal, which had a ransom value, was shed in exchange. Let’s look at what was behind that exchange and that act of ransom.

When God blessed Sarah, the aged barren woman, and by his creative spirit enabled her to give birth to Isaac, he said to Abraham:

“I will bless her (Sarah) and give you a son from her. I will bless her, and nations will arise from her, and kings of the nations will descend from her.” (Genesis 17:15,16)

God stood behind the conception of Isaac that was caused by God in a supernatural way. Therefore he could later rightly say that he conceived and bore Israel through Sarah and that ‘Israel’ is his firstborn son (Psalm 100: 3; Isaiah 43: 7; 51 : 2; Hebrews 11: 11,12). That is why they could be called ‘sons of God’, because God created them and gave birth to them by a woman named Sarah. It was a typology of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was similarly born by a woman, as promised, and appointed as the firstborn. The request of Isaac’s death was understandable, because God had to adopt Israel. Then why did the God deliver Isaac from death if he intended to sacrifice him? Some will say that in doing so, he tempted the faith of Abraham that he was to show according to God’s promise. That’s right. Abraham did show faith. But we what did God demonstrate and what did he accomplish?

In addition to establishing his covenant with Abraham by blood, God purchased Isaac by the substitute sacrifice and appointed him as His Son, and thus Abraham’s offspring from which Israel, the Son of God, was born. This atonement was made by the replacement blood of the sacrificed animal, thereby giving Abraham’s offspring the status of the ‘sacrifice’ that they took upon themselves before the birth of Abraham. Accordingly, God showed that Isaac was to be a ‘sacrifice for God’. When we first see Isaac at the altar and then the substitute sacrifice, then Isaac was identified with that ‘sacrifice’.

  • Isaac – a sacrifice for God
  • ram – the sacrifice instead of Isaac, that redeemed Abraham’s offspring from death
  • Abraham’s offspring – assumes the role of a ransom sacrifice

By replacing his sacrifice with another sacrifice that had redeemed Isaac from death, God showed Abraham that his whole offspring, by means of Isaac, should also have been in the place of that ‘sacrifice’ that carried a certain value. The secret of atonement is hidden here. The aim was to redeem, by the offspring of Abraham, his chief descendant through whom all nations will be blessed. Namely, if the world was sentenced to death by Adam according to the justice of God before the world came into existence, then Israel was, by God’s justice, also ascribed the sacrificial (redemptive) death sentence by Isaac before Israel came into existence.

Since in the blood of animals contained only corruptible life, then it had the same redemptive value as the blood of a man that contained only a corruptible life.

  • Life in this sense is a force that revives the body and keeps it alive. Humans and animals have the same life force.
  • blood = life

Therefore, it was not necessary for God to require the literal sacrifice of a human when it could be replaced by the sacrifice of the animal. The animal would be sacrificed, and by that sacrifice man would die to himself and belong to God. Such a sacrifice could only be used for a specific purpose, depending on the value God had set for it.

With this blood (which contained life as a ransom value), Abraham’s unborn offspring, along with Jesus, was redeemed by the Promised Isaac, who died and belonged to God thereafter. Hence, by God’s decree, they died in Isaac and received life as his children by that ransom. God redeemed them by the ‘blood’ that represented Isaac’s life so that the Israelites (the sons of Israel) and Jesus himself owed their existence to God and God could use them for a specific purpose. That’s why these words were true for them:

“None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom. 14:7,8)

Being born in advance according to the promise, they had to be aware of why God created them and ‘given birth’ to them and why He redeemed them from the people by the blood of the covenant, just as Adam and Jesus had to be aware of their representative and mediating role.

There is something else involved in this event with Isaac. We have seen that everything was outlined before the creation of the world, even the way Jesus would be redeemed from death. The price of his atonement was to be the death of all of Adam’s descendants. However, this death fell on them as Adam’s punishment, not as a sacrifice for God. Therefore, a, institute was made by the Abrahamic Covenant, whereby a chosen people would be redeemed from sin (through sacrifices) and appointed an advocate of the world. Thereby, they would be achieving the value of the entire world and, in that capacity, taking on the role of a ‘sacrifice for God’ with which he could dispose.

This was done by means of Isaac, by whom God sacrificed Abraham’s offspring, and in particular, that offspring through which all nations were to be blessed. In doing so, God equated the value of the whole world in Adam with the value of one nation in Isaac, who was willing to be a ‘sacrifice for God’. It was precisely their death in Isaac which, according to that covenant, was valued as a ransom, and as such it could be used to redeem one man who had previously been separated from among his brothers. That is why all those who were sacrificed with Isaac to God belonged to God from their birth. Hence God would first redeem them for himself, and then submit them to the sacrifice by which he was to redeem his Chosen one.

It was during this time period (from Isaac until the expiration of the appointed time) that Abraham’s offspring should be created and sanctified in order to take on a role in God’s plan of salvation. As we know, Isaac was not literally sacrificed nor was his offspring, but they were nevertheless designated as a ‘sacrifice’ that had to be paid for a specific purpose.

In order to make this sacrifice for God, they had to be born spiritually under the covenant and be sanctified as a ‘living sacrifice’ because only then would it have legal value. Before his spiritual birth, Israel was born by Jacob and raised in Egypt by his 12 sons, until it was time for the boys to become mature for their role. So God said:

“When Israel was a boy, I loved him, and from Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)

After leaving Egypt, they were sanctified and admitted into the covenant with God in the wilderness. Consider that the sacrifice of Jesus redeemed only sinners who were under the covenant and delivered them from the death penalty while others remained condemned (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14). This means that only those who were under covenant could serve as the ransom price for Jesus. That is why God singled out one nation whom he redeemed and sanctified. As such, they had the value of the entire world, so their sacrificial death to which they were subordinate could serve as a atonement value for Jesus. This means that all the children of Israel were dying as a sacrifice, giving ‘their bodies to the sacrifice of a living and pleasing God’. However, God went a step further so that all of Israel gained in added value because a certain portion of the children of Israel were separated, from whom He sought additional conditions. Let’s see how it was done.