When it comes to selecting an Atonement Theory, I have always gravitated toward the Christus Victor Theory. This theory tells a thrilling multi-dimensional story rather than presenting Christ’s atonement as just some sort of forensic transaction.
Christus Victor reveals a cosmic meta-narrative of what Christ did from His physical death on Cross to His soul’s descent into Hell, followed by His resurrection and glorified ascension into heaven, after-which He returned to earth in His resurrected body to perform forty days of such voluminous miracles that all the books on earth couldn’t contain them, followed finally by His peak ascension to the Father’s right hand.
This massive maneuver served to ransom and rescue us from our previous bondage and subjection to the Fallen Powers. This theory, at least from the form given it by the early church fathers, paints a truly epic hero’s journey of Christ defeating and defanging all at once the powers of sin, death, hell, and the devil.
I will perpetually cleave to and forever relish this fantastic imagery, keeping it under my figurative pillow at all times, just as Alexander the Great always kept a literal copy of his favorite epic, The Iliad, under his pillow.
But, having said this, I have seen that for many that this abstract narrative doesn’t necessarily reach them where they are at in their life in a practical sense.
So, I would like to propose a practical amendment to Christus Victor which will allow us to use more practical and graspable imagery about the importance and relevance of Christ’s atonement for all of us.
I want to use two primary atone this images— Christ as our BLOOD DONOR and Christ as our HEALING POULTICE.
So first, let’s consider the atonement as a symbol of Jesus’ blood donor transfusion of His curative life energies into all our souls and bodies.
“Blood is the gift of life!”
So the Red Cross rightfully tells us. Blood transfusions save countless millions of lives every month. Yet, this concept of transfusion was unknown in the ancient world. Nonetheless, the New Testament emphasizes, again and again, the life-infusing energies and curative benefits of Jesus’ blood as the paschal lamb of God.
But consider this— the world-changing science of the bountiful benefits of blood transfusion wasn’t EVEN discovered until the 17th century. And yet, in the first century, Jesus was priming it as a dynamic spiritual symbol to richly bless us two thousand years later. What an incredible testimony and apologetic proof of the advanced revelation surrounding Jesus!
Here is the bombastic bottom line. The blood of Jesus isn’t about transgression, but transfusion. Jesus is a blood-donor, not a blood-shedder.
“The life is in the blood,” as the Scripture says. And Jesus’ life pulsates in His blood. Jesus doesn’t want us laboring listlessly with our anemic iron-poor life energy. Rather, Jesus wants us to allow His iron-rich life force to course through our spiritual veins.
Jesus’ blood is not about paying for our past transgressions but rather providing for our future transfusion.
Jesus wants to transfuse us with His transcendence, His very divine nature, His very goodness, His very own love-rich emotional and mental states.
Jesus doesn’t take life, He gives it. Better yet. He gives us HIS life. Let’s start looking at His cross, and ours as well, as donor tables laid next to each other so that His curative energies can fully flow into our beings.
Again, the blood of Jesus is not about “transgression,” but about “transfusion.”
The nails in his body were the symbolic needles of transfusion where He gave us His faith, His virtues, His wisdom, His energy, His standing with the Father, His own Spirit– His very life force. “By His stripes we were healed.” 1 Peter 2:24.
It is as if we were all laid on our own crosses, on the table of blood donor-ship right next to Him in His cross, to receive a full transfusion of His divine nature into our spiritual veins. This transfusion is wonderfully described in the following passage. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
So, was the cross and atonement necessary for us to be forgiven for our sins?
Well, that’s a tricky question.
Certainly, Jesus didn’t need to die in order for God to change His heart’s love and goodwill “for” and “toward” us– i.e. His willingness to lavish us with His love. The Father’s heart has no “unforgiveness” toward us IF we define that word as it’s commonly used in English: “having or making no allowance for error or weakness.” The problem arises because in the original Greek, the original language in which the New Testament was written, the word translated as “forgiveness” does not match the English definition at all.
The New Testament doesn’t so much teach “forgiveness OF sin” as it does “freedom FROM sin.”
The term “forgiveness” is not the most accurate translation of the Greek word “aphesis” which is used in verses like Luke 24:45-47; Acts 2:38-40; 5:29-31; 13:35-39; 26:15-18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:12-14. In all these passages just cited, the King James translation uses either the words “REMISSION of sins” or “FORGIVENESS of sins” to translate the Greek word “aphesis,” which in truth simply means “freedom.” Aphesis is also translated in the New Testament as “DELIVERANCE” or “LIBERTY.” Its primary definition is “to release from bondage or imprisonment” (Thayer and Smith).
Aphesis derives from the Greek word “apheimi” which means “to send away,” as in “a husband divorcing his wife.” Factoring all this together then, the better translation of this Greek term used in the above-referenced verses is not “FORGIVENESS OF SIN,” but rather “FREEDOM FROM SIN” or “DELIVERANCE FROM SIN.” This phrase literally speaks of our rescue and release FROM our bondage to sin. God is declaring us divorced from our “menage a trois” marriage to sin, Satan and the spirit of the world.
Certainly, God has no unforgiveness toward us, and we need to know that, lest our hearts condemn us from boldly coming to the throne of grace in time of need. But, the blood of Jesus wasn’t shed so that God would no longer be disgusted, hateful, or mad at us. Rather, Jesus allowed His blood to be shed so that we ALL could and would have complete full and final DELIVERANCE from every evil thought, temptation, emotion, circumstance, or action.
So here is my point. If we substitute “FREEDOM FROM SIN” or “DELIVERANCE FROM SIN” for “FORGIVENESS OF SIN” in the New Testament passages cited above, then the Cross becomes clearer in scope and purpose.
Jesus came to earth to restore mankind to full fellowship with God by delivering ALL men from ALL sin for ALL time. THE WORK OF THE CROSS WASN’T JUST TO ASSURE US WE ARE “FORGIVEN FOR” OUR SINS, BUT RATHER TO SHOW US WE ARE “DELIVERED FROM” OUR SINS. I can know I am forgiven of a sin, and that is great, but I can still be in utter bondage to the sin itself and go on repeating it till the cows come home.
Consider addicts, alcoholics and wife beaters, who though are repeatedly forgiven by those they harm, continue to engage in the destructive conduct. Jesus came, died and rose again SO THAT we would be COMPLETELY rescued from any and all sin-bondages. Again, knowing we are “forgiven” is wonderful, but knowing we are “delivered” from the POWER of sin, death and hell is even better.
Jesus’ shed blood is not about punishment FOR sin. It’s about deliverance FROM sin. I noticed a very interesting fact some time ago about the blood of Jesus. What the New Testament says about Jesus’ BLOOD, it also says about God’s SPIRIT.
The blood justifies (Romans 5:9), the Spirit justifies (1 Corinthians 6:11). The blood sanctifies (Hebrews 13:12), the Spirit sanctifies (1Corinthians 6:11). The blood cleanses (1 John 1:7), the Spirit cleanses (1 Corinthians 6:11). We drink the blood (1 Corinthians 11:24-25; John 6:55-56), we drink the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). The life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11), while the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). We are to have “faith in His blood” (Romans 3:24-25) and are to have “the Spirit of faith.” I think that on some level, the blood of Jesus and the Spirit of Christ are synonymous in some mystical way.
Simply put, the blood of Jesus is the “delivery system” of God’s salvation. Any manifestation of power must have a delivery system. In the physical, blood literally serves as a system for the human body to DELIVER oxygen and nutrients to the various tissues throughout the body.
Spiritually speaking, the blood of Jesus delivers the fullness of divine life through the oxygenation of the Spirit into every corner of our being. The definition of the word “Spirit,” interestingly enough, means breath, which of course is how we physically intake oxygen into our blood stream.
What the blood delivers, the Spirit manifests. What the blood transports, the Spirit provides. What the blood accesses, the Spirit strengthens. Jesus sweated blood resisting sin. He sacrificed His blood to give US access to His Spirit, the EXACT SAME access He had as the Son of Man. I see this whole issue is about effectively receiving the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The BLOOD OF JESUS is God’s “delivery system” of salvation to all of us. It delivers us FROM sin and death TO holiness and love. The MAJOR part of this deliverance was Jesus REPLACING the rotten double-minded core in our soul WITH Jesus’ healthy single-minded core in His soul. He first absorbed all of our radioactively toxic soul-cores on the Cross. THEN, when He poured out His own blood on the Heavenly mercy seat, the pouring continued at Pentecost as Jesus’ poured out His Spirit as described in Acts 2. At Pentecost, Jesus poured out His Spirit onto and into the hearts of men.
At the Cross, Jesus shed His pristine blood FOR us. But at Pentecost, Jesus’ blood transmuted to become His Spirit living WITHIN us. Jesus, through this sacrifice, took away our sin-natures and replaced them with HIS pristine faith, HIS pristine mind, and HIS pristine nature.
We were enabled by Jesus to become “partakers of the divine nature” 2 Peter 1:4. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.
The blood of Jesus, then, is not about human transgression, but rather about divine transfusion. So, Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t needed to change GOD’S heart-state toward us FROM “unforgiveness” TO “goodwill.” But, the cross WAS needed to change OUR heart-state FROM “captivity” TO “freedom.” Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary as the vehicle for God’s rescue and liberation. It was His Christus Victor raid, invasion, and spoliation of death, Hell, and our captivity to the fallen powers.
SO, now let’s move on from the imagery of Christ as a TRANSFUSIVE BLOOD DONOR to Christ as a HEALING POULTICE.
POULTICE is a wonderful word. It vibrantly captures Jesus’ healing work at the Cross in a new and fresh way. A POULTICE is a soft, ABSORBENT and moist massh is often often heated and medicated. It is carefully spread over a wound, painful part or infected area of the body. The POULTICE then “draws out” the poison from the wound or body. The end result is that the body is cleansed of harmful toxins. POULTICE is also a term used for commercial products which can remove stains from porous stones such as marble or granite. So, POULTICE carries with it the related concepts of “poison and stain removal.”
Snake and spider bites have been treated with poultices for thousands of years. Poison oak, poison ivy and even boils have also long been treated by poultices. POULTICES are called “poison pullers” because they pull poison away from infected areas by ABSORBING THE POISON INTO THEMSELVES. Epsom salt is a poultice, which combined with a bath and an exfoliating loofah sponge, draws out toxins through the pores of the skin. Other poultices include chewing tobacco, tea tree oil, castor oil, aspirin pastes, baking soda pastes, garlic coves, raw cabbage, echinacea, ashes, mashed pumpkins, bran, cereals and mustard plants.
Most interesting though, is the fact that bread is one of the more common poultices. This is because of its absorbent quality. Bread is packed into the wound, and then covered with a piece of sacking before being bandaged onto the site. Isn’t it amazing that both “salt” and “bread” are common poultices, because Jesus uses these exact two items to describe Himself and us. Jesus refers to Himself as “the bread of life,” while He calls us “the salt of the earth.”
One application of these terms speaks to the anointing that both Jesus and the Church have to heal the world. It is easy to see Jesus as the ultimate POULTICE FOR ALL OUR SINS AND SICKNESSES. Consider the following prophetic passage where Isaiah describes Jesus’ absorption of all our sins. “Surely He has borne our griefs (lit. sicknesses), and carried our sorrows (lit. pains)…. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed…. because He has poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:4-5,12. What a perfect passage to describe Jesus as our POULTICE!
Jesus, as the bread of life, became the POULTICE which was laid over all our sins and sicknesses at the Cross. Jesus then ABSORBED our each and every sin-toxin into Himself. He absorbed every affliction of our spirits, souls and bodies. He “pulled out” every poisonous thought, impulse or wicked desire from our minds and hearts. He “pulled out” every sickness which has ever affixed itself to the human body. He “pulled out” every Satanic thorn imbedded in our flesh because of the access our sin gave the devil. He absorbed ALL our sins and sicknesses onto and into Himself.
As the Apostle Peter said in referring to Jesus, “Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed.” 1 Peter 2:24. So we, as the salt of the world, should quickly and fervently apply by the laying on of believing hands the POULTICE of the Gospel onto every sin, sickness or demonic obstruction we encounter. Jesus at the Cross absorbed all evil onto Himself, both its causes and effects. All we have to do to receive this great healing truth is to BELIEVE this great healing truth.
As Spiritual medics, we all carry the great panacea for all situations in the pouch of our hearts. Toward all we encounter, we possess the Gospel POULTICE of Jesus to tenderly apply to every human wound and firmly apply to every evil circumstance. In fact, the POULTICE was already applied 2,000 years ago to ALL our wounds. All that remains is our faith’s recognition of it.
Once we believe it, the full MANIFESTATION of our healing WILL occur, and that right speedily. We will proclaim, along with King David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your inequities; Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from destruction; Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed as the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5. And remember, POULTICES not only absorb the presence of poison, but they also remove the stains left behind. All the stains of our shame, guilt and condemnation are no more. Jesus heroically absorbed away all OUR pain and poison onto Himself. Our Hero from Heaven!
In conclusion, I hope the suggested metaphors of Christ as both TRANSFUSIVE BLOOD DONOR and HEALING POULTICE will help us to personally appreciate, relish, and celebrate the Christus Victor Atonement in new, vibrant, and visceral ways.