Trinity in Atonement
Preface: If we want to deepen our love for the great infinite God we serve and be drawn to worship Him, we first must try to grasp what He tells us about Himself. The Trinity is a mystery, but in Scripture “mysteries” are deep truths that an infinite God reveals to us on a finite level. Thus, we can safely speak of God only from our knees. “ ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!’ ” (Deut. 6:4, NKJV).
As Seventh-day Adventists, we have always had a strong curiosity in Christ’s Second Coming, and we have done some meticulous studies on the events related with His return. We believe the Jewish sacrificial year was an illustration of God’s plan of salvation and that the equivalent of the Day of Atonement has already begun. Thus we believe that Jesus, our High Priest, is now involved in a final judgment period, the results of which will be seen when He comes again.
If God's revelation in Christ is a true revelation of His being and character, and if God’s plan of redemption in Christ truly consists of our salvation, then we rightly must address the questions, who God and Christ must be to achieve salvation for sinful mankind.
The following connotations help us in understanding atonement as constitutive of salvation.
First, we must realize the identity of the incarnate, crucified, and risen Lord Jesus Christ as the second person of the Trinity in the union with deity and humanity.
Second, the crucifixion of Jesus is not primarily the punishment of sin, but the removal of sin to its logical conclusion. Similarly, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus are essential to atonement because it is God’s intention in Christ not to experience, but to plug-off the effects of sin, to transform and recreate our fallen human nature through allowing us to participate in the resurrected life of His Son.
Third, grace is mediated to redeemed human beings in a Trinitarian manner, from God the Father, through the intercession of the risen Christ, and by the agency of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who makes the humanity of the risen Christ present to us to remake our humanity in the divine image.
“Those who have Christ abiding in the heart will work the works of Christ. Such are entitled to all the promises of His Word. Becoming one with Christ, they do the will of God, and exhibit the riches of His grace . . . the servants of God will sing: ‘I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving-kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name’ (Psalm 138:2). Then let not a semblance of pride or self-importance be cherished, for it will crowd Jesus out of the heart, and the vacuum will be filled with the attributes of Satan.”*
*“The True Church,” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 1, 1913.