John Ritenbaugh affirms that Jesus Christ's sinlessness was not the result of being a programmed automaton, but instead as a result of volition or choice—actively struggling against carnal pulls and temptations, enabling Him to fully empathize and have compassion on those tempted in like manner. He experienced exactly the same kind of temptations and suffering we experience, qualifying Him for the role of High Priest, bridge-builder between man and God, the same role for which members of God's called-out Family are also qualifying. Like our Elder Brother, we must learn righteous judgment by continually exercising our spiritual muscle, practicing making choices, distinguishing right from wrong, but building godly character and spiritual maturity through the enabling power of God's Holy Spirit.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the superiority of Christ and the Melchizedek priesthood, pointing out that in every way it is superior to the Aaronic priesthood because Christ tenure is eternal rather than temporal, guaranteeing both continuity and quality. Hebrews 7 is the only portion of scripture that carefully examines Christ's credentials as High Priest, giving us concrete hope of our salvation. His blameless and undefiled life made Him an appropriate guarantor or co-signer covering our imperfections. After establishing the need for a change of the priesthood, Paul describes the details as to how the new priesthood will administer the New Covenant, amplifying and bringing into stark reality what had been only seen in shadowy outline in the Old Covenant. The New Covenant is established on better promises, not law changes.
John Ritenbaugh insists that nine steps had to be included with the Passover process, including the eating of the lamb, all within the house until the morning. The time frame designated for Passover was ben ha arbayim—a period of time between the going down of the sun and complete darkness (dusk), totally within the confines of the designated day, in this case the fourteenth, as God had commanded. To use scholarship that contradicts the Bible—relying upon tradition rather than God's Word—is not unlike carrying the Ark of the Covenant in the oxcart.
John Ritenbaugh insists that if mankind is separated from one another, it is also separated from God. Moreover, atonement with God will occur when mankind loves one another, loving as an action rather than simply a feeling. Contrary to the antinomian position taken by many Protestants, repentance—something that Christ does not do for us alone—is something we must do with the precious free moral agency God has given us. As sin brought a change in perspective and separation to our parents Adam and Eve, repentance, in one sense, brings us back to Eden—to the tree of life (via God's Holy Spirit). Reconciliation is an ongoing process enabling us to draw closer to what God is, having His mind installed in us.
In this Atonement sermon on Division, Satan and Humility, John Ritenbaugh describes the prevailing mindset in human society as one of contention, division and disagreement. The source of division and separation from the source of life is sin that has become practiced as a way of life. Throughout the course of Biblical history, whenever sin appears, confusion, division and separation are the automatic consequences (James 4:1-2). The Day of Atonement pictures the means to bring back unity with God- the covering of our sins with the blood of Christ. Satan, the author of confusion and misinformation, hates this day above all days because he is fingered as the source of sin. Virtually none of the world's spiritually malnourished churches (sincere and zealous as they are) realizes the significance of the Day of Atonement. We are encouraged to humble ourselves before God, resisting pride, the propelling force of sin.
John Ritenbaugh warns us that because of our close proximity to a materialistic world filled with man's works, our faith cannot take root. The Sabbath is the day consecrated by God for building faith, energizing our minds for fellowship with God. We dare not defile, profane, offer blemished sacrifices, or put to common use this holy time. Our approach to the Sabbath needs to be quality, whole-hearted, aimed at perfection rather than slipshod, lackadaisical, or "Dutching" it just to get by. The Sabbath contains three principal themes or motifs, focusing upon the past (creation), the present (redemption) and the future (prefiguring the Kingdom of God). We must diligently strive to enter this rest.
John Ritenbaugh affirms that the world will learn that God judges- that He has had perpetual hands on contact with His creation, having the ultimate decision over everything. After Satan is bound and confined, God proceeds to bring about seven reconcilements: (1) Judah reconciled with Christ (2) Judah and Israel reconciled (3) Israel, Assyria, and Egypt reconciled (4) all nations reconciled to each other (5) Man and nature reconciled (6) Families reconciled to each other (7) God and man reconciled despite all we have done to trash His property.
In this Atonement sermon, John Ritenbaugh, taking issue with the heresy that the Azazel Goat represents Christ, examines both the causes of the separation between God and His people and the conditions for reconciliation. Not all reconciliation requires blood (Hebrews 9:22), but forgiveness of sin requires the shedding of blood (I Corinthians 11:25). The author of sin (Satan), symbolized by the Azazel goat is led into the wilderness, depicting the habitation of demons (Matthew 12:43, Jude 13). The Azazel Goat did not give up its life, nor was it burned symbolically to blot out all remembrance of sin.(Leviticus 16:21). Christ only, symbolized by the sacrificed goat (Leviticus 16:15-16, Hebrews 9:11-14) reconciles us, giving us the ability to come into the holy place before the throne of grace.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the entire Old Testament was written with the New Testament church in mind. Certain temporary ceremonial sacrifices, washings, and rituals were set aside when the spiritual reality—such as Christ's sacrifice replacing animal sacrifices and God's Holy Spirit and His Word replacing physical washings (Hebrews 9:18; Ephesians 5:26)—added a spiritual dimension. All biblical law, including the ceremonies, comes from God. Paul never taught any Jew to forsake the Law of Moses, the constitution and civil code, but he did rail against Pharisaical additions for the expressed purpose of attaining justification. Even though a change occurred in the administration of existing law, no laws were done away. Instead, they are written in the hearts of the converted (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16).
Atonement, when we are commanded to afflict our souls through fasting, is a time of self-evaluation and repentance. This is the only way to have real unity with God.
Atonement, a day of fasting, pictures the binding of Satan and man's resultant unity with God. This study shows why this step in God's plan is so vital!
John Ritenbaugh suggests that being poor in spirit (a precursor to humility) is a necessary, foundational spiritual state one must have to qualify for God's Kingdom. As the polar opposite of pride, poor in spirit describes a condition of being acutely aware of ones dependency and unworthiness. Because of this deep inner felt need and want, those who are poor in spirit are primed to receive and apply the Gospel's instruction to their lives. Poor in spirit (not a product of human nature) does not equate with physical poverty (there is often much pride in indigence), but instead a spiritual state of felt need in which one renounces his smug self-sufficiency, recognizing his intense dependency upon God for all things.
Using the analogy of Satan as an obnoxious, unwanted intruder spoiling an otherwise pleasant get-together, Richard Ritenbaugh moves us forward to the time when this arch-deceiver will be bound, gagged, put in a straightjacket, and stuffed down a hole for a thousand years so God can work with humanity and achieve at-one-ment with them. In the meantime, God's called-out ones must get used to the idea of sharing a prison cell with Satan and 1/3 of the corrupted angelic beings- for the purpose of developing spiritual strength and character as well as an appreciation for an environment in which Satan and sin can no longer separate.
In this vital Atonement message, John Ritenbaugh embarks on a new series focusing on unity, stressing that unless the splinters of the greater church of God repair their mangled relationships with the Almighty, recoupling will be impossible. A major contributory factor in the scattering is the deceitful heart of man (Jeremiah 17:9) and carnal nature (Romans 8:7) which attempts to substitute charm and social skills (passing it off as conversion) for sincerity and a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 66:3). Because God's scrutiny penetrates right through to the inner heart (I Samuel 16:7), it is foolish and pointless to use the same duplicity toward Him as we use to deceive others and sadly, even ourselves.
In this sermon on the significance of the Day of Atonement, Richard Ritenbaugh teaches that on this day we do no work because most of the work of atonement is done by God Almighty. We fast, afflicting our souls, reminding us how much we depend upon God both physically and spiritually, enabling us to lighten our loads and other people's loads. Fasting puts us in a proper humble and contrite frame of mind, allowing God to respond to us, freeing us from our burdens and guiding us into His Kingdom and His family.
Martin Collins asserts that the Day of Atonement depicts a time Satan will no longer broadcast his evil impulses into our thoughts. More important than the binding of Satan and his demons will be the "at -one- ment" that we will have attained with God. Some of the positive aspects of Atonement include: the demonstration of God's love (an essential core element of His Nature- while we were still sinners Christ died for us), God's Justification, rendering an acquittal and re-instatement to those who have thoroughly repented, making reconciliation and alignment with God's law possible, Propitiation- demonstrated by Christ's sacrifice paying the price of sin- removing the automatic wrath associated with sin, Reconciliation with God, brought about by destroying the enmity between us and God, and Redemption, liberating us from the bondage of sin and the enslaving fleshly impulses — through the means of a costly ransom.
John Ritenbaugh focuses on the Day of Atonement and our responsibility toward God in afflicting our souls. The intent of this process (made clear by the Hebrew verb'awnah'cowing or browbeating our human nature into submission) is to deflate our pride (the major taproot of sin), the biggest deterrent to a positive relationship with God. In humbling us, God causes us to lose our sense of self-sufficiency and pride. As lumps of clay, we cannot be transformed unless we endure the pain of pounding, shaping, and molding. The Day of Atonement adds the dimension of self-inflicted pain, modeled by Christ as He voluntarily endured, submitting himself to His Father's will. Pride caused our separation from God; humility will heal it. Pride generates self-sufficiency, blinding people to their real needs and to others' needs, making a person hard and non-resilient, predisposing him to destruction, shame, and disgrace. Fasting helps to restore at-one-ness with God.
Beginning with Acts 3:21, John Ritenbaugh speaks of a future time of refreshing and restitution after things get a whole lot worse, a time when the Beast would attempt to wear out the saints. The Day of Atonement pictures Satan being confined. God has a plan to recreate Himself, bringing mankind into at-one-ness with Him. Peter preached to the called out ones to repent and yield to God through His Holy Spirit. We need to be in awe of the cost of Christ's sacrifice for us, demonstrating reciprocity as we wholeheartedly yield to God. Mankind has separated itself from God, having followed the example of our parents, Adam and Eve. God's solution to mankind's separation was sending a second Adam, Jesus Christ to make reconciliation and justification possible. Believing Christ and His message has the effect of making a repentant person at one with God. Through sanctification, a person in Christ becomes a new creation. Fasting not only emphasizes that we can resist a powerful bodily drive, but shows us plainly our dependence upon God.
In this offertory message, John Ritenbaugh, acknowledging that many of us are slaves of economic fears, reminds us that according to the reciprocity principle, we will reap what we sow; if we sow in fear, we will reap fear, but if we sow in faith, trust, and love, we will reap spiritual and physical abundance. Expectations determine cause and effect results. Stinginess begets penury, but liberality begets abundance. In a true story, a Japanese farmer saved his village from a tidal wave by burning his crop while the villagers saved their lives by trying to save the farmer's crop. Sacrificial giving yields bountiful blessings.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon a vivid dream in which two lions entered the meeting hall, hungrily were eyeing, describes the terror he had as they came toward him. The dream served as a mnemonic device to remind us that Satan and his demons are prowling around like ravenous lions, seeking whom they may devour. On the Day of Atonement, we afflict our souls to humble ourselves and abstaining from work. Christ came to this earth to shed His blood in love and self-sacrifice to redeem us and all mankind from our sins. We are to gather together in a holy convocation, symbolizing our unity in God. It is a time of rendering ourselves poor in spirit, preparing ourselves for the Kingdom of God. When we afflict ourselves on the Day of Atonement, we prepare ourselves for the Feast of Tabernacles. We do no work on this day, illustrating that we cannot justify ourselves, but must rely totally on God. The priest symbolically places all sin upon the Azazel goat, symbolizing Satan (ultimately responsible for all the sins of mankind), and then casts him out into the wilderness. Another goat, symbolizing Christ, is sacrificed to pay for the enormity of our sin. Through this atonement, we are consequently reconciled to God. Satan is currently paroled, dwelling in the holding facility of this earth, taking every opportunity to deceive and destroy the sons of man in the short time he has left. Satan especially wants to attack those who are faithfully keeping God's laws. We must ardently trust in Christ's atoning sacrifice, practicing what God has taught us, denying ourselves in the process, emulating Jesus Christ. When confronting Satan, we must be sober and self-controlled, vigilant and watchful, resisting Satan at every opportunity, standing firm in the faith, remaining steadfast as a rock. If we resist the Devil, God will draw close to us and Satan will be compelled to flee.
Martin Collins, suggesting that if, as many people think, Satan and Christ are in a tug of war, Satan seems to be winning. Even though Christ has already defeated Satan and disqualified him from rulership, Satan is still a formidable predatory foe to all of God's called out ones, desiring to sift us as he did Peter. Satan's job is to hinder, thwart, and torment, posing himself as God's arch enemy, the great dragon, marshalling the powers of darkness and evil. Atonement pictures the restraining of Satan the Devil, when the responsibility for sins will be placed on its perpetrator, symbolized by the Azazel goat, while Christ's sacrifice, symbolized by the slain goat, will purge and cover our sins. During the Millennium, Satan will be restrained in a bottomless pit while the government of God will be established upon the earth, a time God's authority will be unquestioned, reinforced by God"s glorified called out ones serving as kings and priests ruling over a reconstituted House of Israel composed of remnants of outcasts. The Day of Atonement, depicting a cleansing from the inside out, illustrates a deep sense of humility on the part of God's called out ones, a quality needed in kings and priests.
John Ritenbaugh suggests that competition is the root cause of all war, business takeovers, and marital discord. Carl Von Clausewitz observed that war is nothing more than politics brought to the battlefield. Evolution has glorified competition, enshrining the survival of the fittest. Historically, the competitive nature has its roots in the mind of Satan, who had the audacity to take on the leadership of Almighty God. Man's rivalry with one another has been described by Solomon as a striving after wind. Abraham literally "took the high ground," separating himself from strife with his ambitious nephew who wanted to seek gain on the plains of Sodom. The apostle Paul showed willingness to forgo his well-deserved wages, willing to work privately, avoiding conflict and strife. Christianity should be service- oriented rather than profit- oriented, should reward the worker for his labor, and should replace competition with cooperation. Biblical history records the tortured chronicle of people striving against God. The Gentiles cut themselves off from God by rejecting God's teachings through the patriarchs. We must replace the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit, willing to yield and submit rather than to strive, quarrel, and compete. Satan has successfully deceived the entire world by mixing a little truth with much error, appealing to our pride and tissue needs. On the Day of Atonement, we (as God's called-out remnant) are commanded to afflict our souls, putting down the striving competitive, pride-filled drives of human nature, with its intense appetites, mortifying our flesh, controlling ourselves by submitting to God in humility, taking the cue from our Elder Brother.
Many of us have been members of the church of God for decades, and because of our long association with God's festivals, we forget that new members have little or no idea how to keep them and can be intimidated about what God requires of them during these appointed times. Richard Ritenbaugh points out the foundational principles new members need to keep in mind in observing the Feasts of God throughout the year.
Martin Collins, reflecting that Satan has been allowed to maliciously influence the nations for 6,000 years, reminds us that Jesus Christ has already qualified to depose Satan and the evil effects of his rule. Through Jesus Christ's sacrifice, we are enabled to have reconciliation and at-one-ment with Almighty God, bringing an end to the estrangement we have experienced as a result of our sins. The two goats in Leviticus 16 were types of Christ and Satan, determined by the casting of lots, a practice that has been profaned in modern society, as it is practiced in the state-run lotteries, gambling or divination. Spiritual decisions are now more reliably made on the basis of the promptings of God's Holy Spirit rather than the casting of lots. The goat that was slain represented the crucified Christ, whose blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. The priest who placed the blood on the mercy seat within the veil typified the High Priest in Hebrews 6:19-20, Who is both our Advocate and our High Priest. The Azazel goat typified the author and originator of sin, Satan the devil. The Azazel goat, symbolically laden with sins, must be driven out of the camp of the camp in order that the impurity be removed and we can become reconciled with God. This event does not occur until the High Priest has returned from the Holy of Holies. The driving away of the Azazel goat typifies the restraining of Satan and his demons into a bottomless pit, a venue different from the Lake of Fire, which we understand as an all-consuming fire which burns up the contents rather than tortures the victims endlessly. After Satan is deposed, God's government can then be established assisted by God's called-out ones, who will have been sanctified, resurrected and glorified. The Day of Atonement depicts five transactions: 1.) the bearing of sins of an innocent, humble Christ, 2.) a ransom paid for sinners, 3.) a substitute who willingly takes the place of sinners, 4) Christ's sacrifice satisfying the penalty, and 5.) a legal and juridical meeting of
John Ritenbaugh states that Atonement is the least looked forward to holy day, and the one Satan would like to deliberately obscure. The word atonement alters in meaning as we change the context in which it is used. When we parse the morphology, looking at the suffix ment which changes a verb into a noun, suggests the means by which something is altered or changed , we find that atonement denotes the way something bad done in the past can be made good, or the means to which harmony is achieved, making the entire world at one or reconciled with God. Sin has separated mankind from God, forcing God not to listen to them. Man's estrangement is wholly beyond dispute, and totally man's fault. We cannot expect to reconcile to God on our own terms. Man is not God's equal; His sovereignty must be recognized at all times. The context of "covering" in the Old Covenant did not get rid of or purge sins, but merely covered them. The sacrifice of unblemished animals typified the type of life that Christ would lead: sinless. Sadly, our forebears kept these holy days mechanically, not regarding the significance or the meaning of a "sinless" offering. No heart to heart contact was every made with God; no atonement could be achieved if they never repented or changed. Sin could be considered a violation of relationship, brought about by idolatry, adultery, or fornication. When we realize that God alone can forgive sin, we understand that human love in Proverbs 16:6, does not atone for sin, but it allows the person offended the opportunity to protect or safeguard the reputation of the offender. The context of atonement in the New Covenant is to totally purge or wipe away the sins, only possible through the blood sacrifice of a perfect life, namely Jesus.
David Grabbe, acknowledging the longstanding controversy over when to keep the Passover, asks the question of why Jesus Christ was crucified late on the 14th day instead of at the beginning of the 14th. Not having the correct answer to this has led some to keep the Passover at the incorrect time. The afternoon of the 14th is significant because of God's covenant with Abraham as recorded in Genesis 15, which foreshadowed the release from bondage on the self-same day 430 years later, and the crucifixion of our Savior (an event taking place outside of a Holy Day, and apart from the time of any commanded sacrifice) which occurred once, displacing the multiple sacrifices required in the Old Covenant, which were only types of the Heavenly Original. We keep the Passover on the beginning of the 14th day because Jesus Christ commanded us to do that and set that example. The timing of Christ's sacrifice late on the 14th points back to the covenant God made with Abraham for his spiritual descendants to be justified by faith, be given eternal life, and be part of a holy nation.
Richard Ritenbaugh, asking us what we have that we did not receive, concludes that 100% of what we have received has come from God (and to a degree, other people). Even though we have good looks and a sparkling personality, even though we have attained a certain degree of material success, a certain amount of knowledge, a certain set of skills, we did not accomplish these things alone. We had nothing to do with our calling, redemption, or salvation; God gave us all these things. Ultimately, it all goes back to God. We have nothing to boast about; we are totally obligated to God. We have good reason to be humble and grateful. The Day of Atonement points out how needy and dependent we are. We are to afflict our souls by fasting. Because we are so incredibly frail, 24 hours with no food or drink makes a deep impression upon us, showing our total dependency upon a merciful God to which we are eternally obligated. This humble attitude leads us to subject ourselves to God. On this day, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, we are to do no work at all, forcing us to turn our total attention to God, refraining to speak our own words or think our own thoughts. God's atoning work is unmerited grace, for which we remain eternally grateful. The atoning work is applied universally until all sin is atoned for, and everything is made holy. Psalm 102 reminds us how weak, destitute, and temporary we are as compared with God's sovereignty, eternal power and changelessness. God allows us to go through a trial to bring about a change in us. Thankfully, when God's people renounce their sins and repent, God will show mercy. Death is no impediment to God; He will resurrect us from the grave. Psalm 103 extols God for all His benefits; everything good, both physical and spiritual, comes from God. Foremost among all these benefits, he forgiveness of our sins. God extends these benefits to those who fear and honor Him, keeping His commandments, practicing His way of life.
Many Bible students scratch their heads over a seeming discrepancy in timing between the Old Testament instructions about Passover and Christ's fulfillment of it in His crucifixion. Contending that the spiritual fulfillment is far more important than physical rites, David Grabbe relates that Jesus did indeed fulfill the Passover—just not as one might expect.