13. Sin And Atonement
In its historical accounts, the Hebrew Bible does not conceal the shortcomings of Israel's greatest men, and concerning mankind in general it states:
And we are all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteousness like filthy rags; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Surely, there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
Enter not into judgment with Your servant; for no man living is righteous before You.
These statements confirm that no one is completely righteous and without sin, and that when one does inevitably transgress he becomes "like one who is unclean," but not actually or permanently so.
Sins can be "erased" through sincere repentance and a firm resolution never to repeat them. The power of repentance is illustrated below:
The sacrifices [acceptable to] G-d are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O G-d, You will not despise.
I Samuel 15:22
And Samuel said: "Does the L-rd delight as much in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obedience to the voice of the L-rd? Behold, obedience is better than any sacrifice, and to comply [is better] than the fat of rams."
Perhaps the House of Judah will hear all the evil I [G-d] intend to do to them, so that everyone may turn from his evil way and I may forgive their iniquity and sin.
"As I live," says the L-rd, G-d, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn, turn from your evil ways, for why should you die, O House of Israel?"
During the First and Second Commonwealths, there was an additional form of atonement, which relatively few sins required. This was the offering of an animal sacrifice on the Temple altar. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, however, sincere repentance alone has secured total expiation:
Take with you words, return to the L-rd; say to Him: "Forgive all iniquity, accept that which is good; and we will offer the words of our lips instead of bullocks."
Missionaries claim that the death of Jesus obviated both repentance and sacrifices. They say that the only way people can obtain G-d's forgiveness is to believe that Jesus died on the cross in lieu of their deserved punishment:
I Corinthians 15:3
For I delivered to you first of all what I also received, that Christ died for our sins.
But consider the following:
1. Jesus was just one of thousands crucified by the Romans.
2. The New Testament depicts Jesus dying against his will:
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud crying and tears, to Him Who was able to save him from death, and he was heard in that he feared....
Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me, but not my will but Yours be done. And there appeared an angel to him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat were as great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice: "E--li, E--li, lama sabachthani," that is: "My G-d, my G-d, why have You forsaken me?"
Here is the real Jesus, exposed for all to see, desperately praying that G-d save him from imminent death. So weak was he that this "divine" being needed an "angel " to strengthen him. And when he was on the cross knowing that his prayers were not answered, he accused G-d of deserting him!
Obviously he saw no reason to die.
3. Animal sacrifices atone only for past sins: no offering supposedly replaced by Jesus brought atonement for future sins.
4. Except for a few exceptions (Leviticus 5:1,20--26), sins intentionally committed did not require an animal sacrifice for one to be forgiven.
5. In the Messianic Era, all Jews will be forgiven for their sins, regardless of what they believe:
In those days and in that time, says the L-rd, Israel's iniquity will be sought and there shall be none; and Judah's, and none shall be found; for I will forgive those whom I leave as a remnant.
...and I will remove the sin of that land [Israel] in one day.
I, I am He Who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
6. The Second Temple remained standing for forty--one years after Jesus' death. During that period, millions of animals continued to be sacrificed on the altar.
7. The entire sacrificial system will be reinstated in the Third Temple:
...their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted upon My altar; for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
For thus says the L-rd: "David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the House of Israel. Nor shall the Levitical priests lack a man in My presence to offer burnt offerings, burn meal offerings, and make sacrifices forever."