Did Jesus Complete the Atonement on the Cross?

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Some have charged the SDA church with teaching that the atonement was not finished at the cross. Below is an edited excerpt from the article REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of former Adventist Eliana Matthews) that briefly deals with this issue:

From the book Seventh-Day Adventists Believe, put forth by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 
On the cross the penalty for human sin was fully paid. Divine justice was satisfied. From a legal perspective the world was restored to favor with God (Rom. 5:18). The atonement, or reconciliation, was completed on the cross as foreshadowed by the sacrifices, and the penitent believer can trust in this finished work of our Lord. – 350
From Ellen White
[Christ] planted the cross between heaven and earth, and when the Father beheld the sacrifice of His Son, He bowed before it in recognition of its perfection. “It is enough,” He said. “The atonement is complete” {RH September 24, 1901, par. 11}.
Our great High Priest completed the sacrificial offering of Himself when He suffered without the gate. Then a perfect atonement was made for the sins of the people {7BC 913.3}.
Christ’s sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the atonement had been fulfilled. The work for which He had come to this world had been accomplished {AA 29.2}.
The Lord would have His people sound in the faith—not ignorant of the great salvation so abundantly provided for them. They are not to look forward, thinking that at some future time a great work is to be done for them; for the work is now complete {1SM 394.3}.
Comment:

Clearly, the charge that Adventists teach an unfinished atonement at the cross is false. But aren't there other quotes and sources that suggest that Adventists believe the atonement was not completed on the cross? Yes. Then are we contradicting ourselves? No. Allow me to explain.


The real issue here is one of semantics. SDA theology places a wider definition on the word atonement than do other Christians. For most Christians the word atonement means the work of Christ on the cross. For Adventists, the word atonement means two things: the atonement of the cross, and the final atonement. The atonement of the cross is what Jesus did for us in offering salvation. That is complete. But the final atonement involves, among many things, the second coming of Jesus, the final destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of the New Jerusalem. Thus by final atonement, we mean that God is going to bring the entire universe into perfect harmony as it was before sin began. Since Jesus' death on the cross did not bring the universe into perfect harmony we can say that the atonement is not complete. However, when speaking of the atonement in the sense of salvation it is 100% complete. Therefore, it is not a denial of the cross to say that Jesus is doing a work of atonement in heaven. The best way to summarize the SDA understanding is this way: The sacrificial atonement was provided in full on the cross of Calvary. Nothing needs to be added to it. It was perfect. The atonement taking place in heaven is simply Christ applying the benefits of the cross to our individual lives. He is not adding to it. It is perfect and complete and when we come to him we can rest assured that everything needed for our salvation is found, not in ourselves, but in Christ. Then, at the end of time God will complete the other phase of the atonement which has nothing to do with the death of Christ, but with the complete restoration of the universe.

From:  REclaiming Adventism (A Response to the Testimony of former Adventist Eliana Matthews), edited.

Comments

  1. I appreciate your take on this topic! Marcos, I search high and low on your blog and can't find your name anywhere. Maybe you have a reason for that. However, it seems to me that it will make it easier for people to address you in their comments if they know your name.

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    1. Hi Jerry! Thanks for your comment. I am surprised you couldnt 'find my name. Its certainly not something I am trying to hide. I have an entire post with my testimony (The God Who Chases) that should have my name in it. But any-who, maybe I should make it more clear? lol.

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  2. What more needed to be done, the curtain in the temple was torn, meaning we could go to God directly, all that was to be done was. There was about 100 old testament prophesies that Jesus fulfilled he was the messiah, And if I may one of the greatest unfulfilled prophesies in the history of the world was the jews of that day, and let me say some not all rejected Jesus,this to me is one of the biggest mistake or injustice in the history of the world, My grammar is Lacking because I hold this to be most important, but God will not forget his people Isreal.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts Eric! And dont worry on the grammar - its your passion that matters!

      Blessings :D

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  3. I think the challenge with SDA theology as it relates to a complete atonement is its doctrine of an investigative Judgment. which clearly indicates that prospectively the atonement is not complete.

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    1. Hello Anonymous!

      Thank you for your thoughts. As I mentioned in the article above it depends on how you define "atonement". SDA theology places a wider definition on the word atonement than do other Christians. For most Christians the word atonement means the work of Christ on the cross. For Adventists, the word atonement means two things: the atonement of the cross, and complete eradication of the sin problem. The atonement of the cross is what Jesus did for us in offering salvation by virtue of his shed blood. As Adventists we believe that the atonement on the cross is 100% complete. There is nothing more to add to what Jesus did. It is finished. But the final atonement involves, among many things, the second coming of Jesus, the final destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of the New Jerusalem. Thus by final atonement, we mean that God is going to bring the entire universe into perfect harmony as it was before sin began. Since Jesus' death on the cross did not bring the universe into perfect harmony we can say that the atonement is not complete.

      In short, in order to have an adequate conversation on Adventism and atonement it is necessary to embrace that Adventists mean 2 things when they use the words. Atonement on the cross and final atonement. So you are not entirely right in saying that prospectively the atonement is not complete from an Adventist perspective. If you are referring to the atonement on the cross you are incorrect. That is complete. If you are referring to the complete eradication of evil you are right, that is not complete as is clearly seen.

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    2. Should we believe a writer when she contradicts herself without acknowledging that her former statement is wrong?
      "The blood of Christ, while it was to release the repentant sinner from the condemnation of the law, was not to cancel the sin; it would stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement; so in the type the blood of the sin offering removed the sin from the penitent, but it rested in the sanctuary until the day of atonement." – {CCh 348.1}




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    3. I'm not sure what you are getting at. The statement means exactly what I explained above. Two different definitions of atonement. The atonement on the cross, which brings the sinner assurance of salvation, is complete. Hence, we are released from the condemnation of the law. The final atonement, which bring the entire universe into harmony with Gods law once more, is not complete. The record of sin in the heavenly sanctuary remains until the final atonement stands on record, not against the sinner (who is no longer under condemnation) but against Satan who will ultimately be held responsible for all the sins on that record. So there is no contradiction there.

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  4. Wow, Marcus. This was a most excellent explanation. Thank you!

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    1. I'm glad you were blessed dude! Praise God :D

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