Eight Views on the Atonement of Jesus

If you have kept up on the atonement, here are some of the different views on the topic. Please note, I have substituted the name Yeshua which is the Jewish name for Jesus. This was for a class I taught a ways back on the topic.

Substitutionary Atonement






Penal Substitution








Representation view of atonement







1.When the Messiah died bearing our sins or guilt or punishment, he did so in our place and instead of us. When the Messiah was bearing our sins, that meant that we were not bearing our sins and do not have to do so.

2. The Messiah took our accusation and condemnation and punishment, in his suffering in our place and for us.” He did something, underwent something, so we did not—and never will—have to.

The Messiah died instead of us (substitution); he died a death that was the consequence of sin (penal/the penalty). This view has come under some attack because it is viewed as “divine child abuse” (i.e., a Father Punishing a Son). Some say this view places too much focus on God’s wrath, fits a Western sense of justice, is attractive to individualism, and turns the death of the Messiah into something done for us rather than something to emulate. Those who hold to the penal substitution view say its critics misunderstand the Trinitarian context of the atonement. Thus, is isn’t the Father being ticked off at humans and then venting all his rage on His Son. Instead, the substitution view is prompted by the loving grace of the Father.[1]


The Messiah “represents” us the way a priest represents the people before God (Hebrews 2).  The Messiah completely identifies with us in order to lift us from our fallen condition, to restore us as cracked image bearers, by incorporating us into Himself.  Representation assumes the notion of being identified with and incorporated into a person who is able to stand for them, with them, and instead of them!





Passover and Atonement The Last Supper: Mark 14: 24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Yeshua interprets the bread (not lamb) and wine as his body and blood. Paul also said the Messiah’s death is described as a Passover sacrifice (1 Cor 5:7).

Three key elements are involved in Passover ritual and theology:

1. Protection from wrath and destruction. Though the vocabulary of atonement is not present, the sacrifice of a lamb is the central element. The blood ritual is emphasized in protecting the Jewish families from the wrath of the destroyer of the firstborn throughout the land. The effect of blood sacrifice in the averting of judgment is clear.

2.  Liberation from oppression: Every celebration of the Passover focuses on the deliverance of the Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

3.  Consecration to God: Those whom God had redeemed from death were to regard themselves as now wholly consecrated to him. In the exodus, God was not so much liberating slaves from Pharaoh as reclaiming his own worshipers. The sacrifice of all firstborn animals and the redemption of firstborn sons was explicitly to remind the Israelites that every future generation belonged to God in perpetuity (Exod. 13:1 – 16). This is then carried forward into the demand that Israel should live in practical ethical holiness. So the Passover speaks not only of God’s redemptive commitment to Israel, as demonstrated in history, but also of Israel’s ethical commitment to God, to be demonstrated in life (cf. Exod. 19:6).[2]


Ransom View of Atonement   “I am the LORD, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem (lytroomai) you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD. (Ex 6:6-8).

It is important for our understanding of the Messiah’s words that we notice that God ransoms Israel not by “paying someone off” but by delivering the people from slavery in Egypt”  (e.g., Ex 6:6, 13).

The Messiah gives his life as a “ransom for many” (Matt 20:28/Mark 10:45).  The Messiah’s death and blood possessing redemptive significance (see Mark 10:45; Rom 3:24; 8:23; Gal 3:13–14; 1 Cor 1:30; 6:20; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Titus 2:14; Heb 9:12; 1 Pet 1:1). A ransom was the price paid for redemption from captivity or slavery. In the Jewish Scriptures, the image is related to freeing slaves (Lev 19:20; 25:51–52) and redeeming land (Lev 25:26). The meaning of “for” (anti) in the ransom is “a ransom in substitution for many.” Just like the Servant of Isaiah 53, the Son of Man gives his life as a ransom in place of others and so achieves the redemption of the new Isaianic exodus. The substance of the ransom view is reinforced by the words of institution at the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). The saying connects with Isaiah 53:12 about the vicarious nature of the Servant’s death. Yet the language also recalls the language of the sacrifices (Lev 4).


The Messiah and the Victory of Atonement The Jewish Scriptures depicts a warrior God who is constantly fighting against the cosmic forces of the universe (e.g., Psalm 29:10; 74:10-14; Job 26:12-13).  God and his angels are truly at war with the demonic.  John writes that the “whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and Yeshua calls Satan the “prince of this world” (John 14:30.  In Ephesians 2:2 Paul refers to Satan as the “ruler of the kingdom of the air.” A third important part of the human environment related to sin is the presence and influence of the “powers,” evil spiritual beings. Paul uses a variety of terms to refer to these beings: “angels” ( Rom. 8:38); “authorities” ( 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; 2:2; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:10, 15); “ruler/s” (1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:18; 2:10, 15); “powers” ( Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21;  “thrones” ( Col. 1:16). The victory model recognizes that the Messiah’s victory over the devil’s dominion has had cosmological significance. Disciples of Yeshua are rendered “irreproachable” or “free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22). Since our sins are atoned for, “the accuser” has no more claim on us, and hence we are set free (Romans 8:1, 31, 33; Colossians 2:13-15).
Atonement brings union with God The Messiah identifies with us and we gain access to everything he is by being incorporated into him.

To be united to Messiah is to have the Spirit of Messiah within you. The Spirit is the real, living bond between Yeshua and us. If you do not have the Spirit, then you do not have the Messiah (Rom. 8:9).  “Having the Spirit,” Sinclair Ferguson wrote, “is the equivalent, indeed the very mode, of having the incarnate, obedient, crucified, resurrected and exalted Messiah indwelling us so that we are united to him as he is united to the Father.[3]

Sacrifice and Atonement “Sacrifice” has no monolithic meaning in ancient Israel. One must not only think of the various types of regular and special sacrifices (e.g., the burnt offering, the cereal offering, the guilt offering, the Passover sacrifice), but one must also keep in mind the development of the “sacrifice of obedience”-that is, the preference in some prophetic literature for obedience over sacrifice (e.g., Is 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-25; Mic 6:6-8). Yeshua’s death is interpreted as a covenant sacrifice (e.g., Mk 14:24; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 7:22; 8:6; 9:15), a Passover sacrifice (e.g., Jn 19:14; 1 Cor 5:7-8), the sin offering (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21), the offering of firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20, 23), the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Heb 9-10), and an offering like that of Isaac by Abraham (e.g., Rom 8:32). As the writer of Ephesians affirms, “Messiah loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). [4]


[1] Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement (Nashville: Abington Press. 2007), 41.

[2] Christopher J.H. Wright, “The Old Testament,” in  D. Tidball, D. Hilborn, and J. Thacker, The Atonement Debate: Papers from the London Symposium on the Theology of Atonement (Grand Rapids, Zondervan. 2008), 69-82.

[3]. S.Ferguson, The Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 71

[4]. Mark D. Baker, Joel B. Green, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts (Downers Grove, ILL: Intervarsity Press, 2011), 129.