Spiritual Substitutionary Atonement
Revelation Lesson #012
August 8, 2004
"He washed us" is an idiom in the Scripture for the cleansing that comes by means of "his own blood." There is rich imagery here. To understand this we need a quick review of salvation. The washing concept and the use of "by his blood" are terms that are consistently used in relation to the total doctrine of salvation. First of all we have to understand that the problem is sin. Sin is that which is contrary to the perfect righteousness and justice of God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God that plunged the human race into sin and created a variety of problems that had to be resolved in terms of their salvation. So a brick wall was set up between man and God, and that is the sin barrier.
The first element in the sin barrier is the problem of sin itself. The second problem is the penalty of sin. Because man is a sinner he violates the righteousness of God; because of the penalty of sin he is spiritually dead and can't have a relationship with God. Each human being is born guilty of Adam's original sin and bearing the penalty of sin in terms of spiritual death, incapable of having a relationship with God. The third problem in the barrier is God's own character. Because God is perfectly righteous He can't have a relationship with a sinful creature. The righteousness of God is His standard; the justice of God is the application of that standard. So before God can save a fallen creature His righteousness and justice have to be satisfied. Man has a problem because everything he does is –R; he lacks righteousness. Isaiah 65:6 says that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rages. That means that every good deed, the most righteous things man does don't cut any ice with God. They are filthy rags. On top of that we are spiritually dead and there is no way that we can get into heaven when we are spiritually dead. Finally, there is our position in Adam. We are in Adam and the Scripture says that in Adam all die. These are the different dimensions of the sin problem.
The cross resolves all of these problems. It is at the cross that God deals with all of man's problems. First of all the problem of sin, that every human being is born a sinner, is resolved by unlimited atonement. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for everyone's sin. That doesn't mean everyone is going to heaven but it means that the penalty has been resolved. It has been paid by Christ on the cross but it isn't applied yet. The emphasis in the atonement is its unlimited dimension. It is for everyone. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God and Christ paid the penalty for all. The penalty itself is paid in the aspect of salvation known as redemption. Redemption always has with it that idea of paying a price. Redemption is not for the elect; redemption is for all. What about those who don't believe? Are they redeemed? Yes, but we will see what happens shortly.
The character of God is resolved through propitiation, justification and imputation. When Christ died on the cross he propitiated God's character. Scriptures teaches in many passages that the atonement was for all, redemption was for all, and propitiation was for all. But it doesn't teach that justification is for all or that imputation is for all, or that regeneration is for all. Unlimited atonement, redemption and propitiation have to do with the objective work of Christ on the cross. When He died on the cross His death was sufficient for all. He actually paid the penalty for all and God the Father's justice and righteousness was satisfied for all. However, there is still a problem. Te problem is that the individual is still –R, he still lacks righteousness. He is still spiritually dead, and he is still in Adam. Christ's death didn't transfer us from any of that, it just paid the penalty and took care of the objective aspect of the cross but not the subjective application of the cross. So the issue for each individual is faith alone in Christ alone. The instant that one puts his faith alone in Christ alone God the Father imputes to that one the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. As a result of that God looks at us, sees that perfect righteousness and says, You are justified. It is a judicial declaration from the Supreme Court of heaven.
God solved the problem of the barrier. Remember this whole thing is resolved by "the blood of Christ," the phrase is used to describe all of these different doctrines. Redemption, propitiation, justification and cleansing are all aspects that are resolved by the blood of Christ.
This concept of washing goes throughout the Scripture. Psalm 51:2, which has to do with David's confession of his sin of adultery. "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." There are two places in life where we get cleansing. When we trust Christ as savior we are cleansed positionally; when we confess our sins after salvation we are cleansed experientially. Psalm 51:2 is talking about a post-salvation cleansing. Psalm 51:7, David uses the same verbiage again, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." He is already saved but post-salvation sin gets a little dirt on us, so we have to be washed again. The positional aspect is indicated in Isaiah 1:16, 18, "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil…. Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. " In the New Testament we have the same imagery used. Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit." How are we saved? Through the washing of regeneration. This also raises the terminology Jesus uses in John 13:10 in the episode of the foot washing of Peter. "Jesus said to him, He that is washed needs not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and you are clean, but not all." The background is that if we lived in that culture our bodies would already be clean. we would have taken a bath. This was the Passover, the highest holy day in all of the Jewish calendar, so before coming to dinner we would have taken a bath. This verse uses the Greek word NIPTO [niptw], not the word for washing. The word for washing is LUO [luw], the word we have in Revelation 1:5. Instead of using LUO, a complete bath, Jesus uses the word NIPTO, meaning a partial washing. He is simply washing the feet, not the whole body. Jesus was teaching a principle that Peter didn't understand now, but would afterward.
John 13:8, "Peter said to him, You shall never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash you not, you have no part with me." The word translated "part" is the Greek word MEROS [meroj]. The way we interpret the English word "part" is in the sense of a role, a part to play. That is not what MEROS means. MEROS was a technical, legal term in ancient Greek legal documents known as testaments and wills. If you were designating your inheritance to someone that portion that they received was the MEROS. What Jesus is saying to Peter is, If you don't let me cleanse you, i.e. if you don't go through life confessing your sins and being cleansed so that the production in your life is through the filling of the Spirit, the result is going to be your loss of inheritance. In our inheritance are two aspects: permanent inheritance and contingent inheritance. There are some things that every believer will receive in heaven—a new resurrection body, eternal life, great joy and happiness. But some of us will have things that others do not have. For example, in the letters to the seven churches we read that those who overcome will be allowed to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. Others who overcome will be given the crown of life. Others will be able to eat from the hidden manna. Others will receive a white stone with their name written on it, a name that no one else can read. So there are all of these various promise given to believers who over come, that is, those who advance to spiritual maturity. So when Jesus says this to Peter He is saying that if he doesn't wash him in terms of periodic cleansing in the Christian life he won't have an inheritance because he will live his whole Christian life in the power of the flesh and not by walking by the Spirit. "He that is bathed [LOUO] needs not save to wash his feet, but is completely clean: and you [Peter] are clean, but not all [the disciples]." Not all the disciples are cleansed. Judas is the unbeliever in the midst.
Washing is a major metaphor in the Scripture for salvation, but it is also used when it is talking about post-salvation cleansing from sin—1 John 1:9. This goes back to Exodus 29:4, "And Aaron and his sons you shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall wash them with water." When a priest was initiated into the priesthood he was bathed from head to toe. Each time a priest went into the tabernacle the first piece of furniture that met him was the golden laver, and he would have to wash his hands and his feet. That was a symbol of the fact that he had done things and been places he shouldn't have. In other words, he had committed sin. So he had already been washed from head to toe, indicating he was saved; now he had to go through periodic cleansing or washings before he could go and serve the Lord as a priest in the tabernacle and the temple. So now he has a partial washing, he is now in fellowship, he is cleansed. The real issue is cleansing. The sin must be dealt with.
We see how this fits with the flow and the context of John's thoughts. Remember, John was there is John 13. He wrote John 13! He understood these principles, he wrote 1 John 1:9. "And has made us kings and priests to God and his Father." This whole imagery of washing comes right out of the Old Testament imagery of priests, and that is what Jesus is talking about in terms of serving Him in John chapter thirteen.
The KJV and the NKJV then the verse reads "kings," that "he has made us kings." That is incorrect. Other versions will say, "he has made us a kingdom and priests." Scratch out the word "and," it is not in the original of any of the texts. It says literally, "he has made us a kingdom"—"he has made us a kingdom [a domain or a dominion], priests to his God and Father." What characterizes this dominion is that every individual in the church age functions as a priest to God. There is a construction here in the grammar that is called a double accusative. The verb is the aorist active indicative of POIEO [poiew]. It is past tense, a constative aorist, it is simply summarizing the whole process in one simple statement without reference to its beginning or end or its target—"he has made us." Then the accusative direct object is "us," but the word "kings" is also an accusative. The main verb "he hade" has two direct objects—"he made us kings." This construction is called a double accusative, and verbs that take a double accusative are verbs like POIEO. In this type of construction usually one of the words is a person: that's "us." The other, a thing: that's "a kingdom." In most cases the person "us" receives the thing in the accusative case. So in this case we believers receive something: a position in this kingdom. "Kingdom" is the more remote of the two objects. The next word is "priests." It is in apposition to "kingdom," so it is describing the kind of kingdom that this is, or our role in that kingdom—we are priests.
This also takes us back to the Old Testament. In Exodus 19:6 the Jews were told, "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." So Israel was set apart as a special kind of nation. As a nation they were going to be a priestly nation even though not every member was a priest. Only those who were from the tribe of Levi were priests. In the church age God calls out a new set of people. The Jews failed. They are not replaced by the church, God is still going to fulfill all of His promises to Israel in terms of the covenants. But what we have in the New Testament is that the writers take the Old Testament passages related to the nation of Israel and apply that same principle to the church. In the Old Testament Israel was called out to be a counter culture in the world. They were to represent God to the world. They failed, and because they failed God postponed His plan for them. The kingdom doesn't come to them, it is postponed. There is a temporary shift from Israel to the church. What God is doing in the church is the same kind of thing He did with Israel, He sets us apart as a counter culture in the world. We are not of the world, we are in the world. We function as priests and this is the imagery that was picked up in a number of different verses related to our function as priests.
Hebrews 13:15, "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." That is part of our priesthood. We praise God, we give thanks to God, we are grateful to God; it is a part of the fruit of the Spirit in our priesthood as we live in the filling of the Spirit.
1 Peter 2:5, 9, "You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ…..But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." We are a holy priesthood, a holy kingdom. This also has implications for the future. The word "priest," interestingly enough is not used in either the Gospels or in the epistles in relationship to believers, but the concept is there in terms of our spiritual service until we get to the passage in 1 Peter 2:9. But the word is used in Revelation 5:10 and 20:6. "And has made us a kingdom, priests to our God: and we shall reign on the earth…. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." So we will rule and reign with Him in the coming kingdom and fully function in our priesthood in that kingdom. How do we learn to do that? We learn to do it here and now. That is one of the reasons Revelation was written: to warn us that we are in a training camp right now, and there is a future ruling and reigning and priestly responsibility that we will fulfill in the coming kingdom. Our training is now, so whatever we get in this life, whatever level of maturity we reach, whatever doctrine you learn during this time on earth is preparatory for our future work in ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we come to the end of verse 6 where John expresses praise to Jesus Christ: "to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." This is because of who he is. John closes with the word "Amen" which is used some seven or eight times in Revelation. It is from the Greek word AMEN [a)mhn] based on a Hebrew word amen which means to be true. "So be it" is the idiom. It is derived from a word indicating stability. In fact the root meaning of the word had to do with the foundation of a pillar, something sunk down deep in the ground that was unshakeable. So it came to indicate faith and it also came to indicate a certainty or affirmation of certainty.