|Dr. Couch, how do we explain Christ dying for the sins of those believers in the OT?|
ANSWER: The Bible speaks clearly on this issue. The most obvious passage is Romans 3:25. "God displayed [Christ] publicly as a propitiation [place of mercy] in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed." Hodge rightly says "The sins before the coming of Christ (Acts 14:10; 17:30; Heb. 9:15). In this sense Christ tasted sin for every man (Heb. 2:9)."
The ceremonial offerings of bulls and goats never justified the OT believer. The writer of Hebrews notes: "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). The OT believers had already been told this. "In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou [God] hast taken no pleasure" (Psa. 40:6). It was revealed then in verse 7 that the coming of the Messiah was in order to be the One who would take away sin. "Then I [the Messiah] said, 'Behold I have come'" in order to do just that! That is, take away sin!
The Jews were very familiar with Isaiah 53 and the prophecy of the Suffering Servant. Verse 12 makes it certain that by His coming death He would "justify the many." Hebrews goes on and reminds the reader that the priests of the OT were offering sacrifices "which [could] never take away sins" (Heb. 10:11). But when Christ died He made one offering and sacrifice "for sins for all time" and then "sat down at the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12; Psa. 110:1). Finally: "For by one offering He has perfected [made complete] for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).
Hebrews 9:15 wraps up the argument: "And for this reason He is the mediator for a new covenant in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance." The Mosaic covenant ("the first covenant"} could not finish the issue of sin. Only the New covenant could by the substitutionary death of Christ!
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch