1. The Atonement foreshadowed
The writings of the Old Testament are the first powerful witness that God is the originator of our salvation. He is the God who saves. From the beginning, this theme is woven into the story of his relationship with his people. If this story of the Fall describes the separation from God caused by sin, the Old Testament moves very swiftly to offer hope through God's gracious intervention (Genesis 3:21; Exodus 6:6-8).
In the book of Genesis, the rescue of Noah from the flood provided an example of God's saving activity (Genesis 6:5-9:17). The call of Abraham signaled the making of a people committed to God by covenant and promise (Genesis 12:1-3). Exodus describes the release of God's people from slavery in Egypt by the mighty act of God. By his covenant, the holy God provided a means of reconciliation for his sinful people. In spite of their sin, they could come to him. Through the system of sacrificial offerings that God had himself ordained, the covenant relationship was maintained (Psalm 50:5).
The Old Testament revelation comes to a climax in the messages of the prophets. Many of them spoke clearly of a coming day when God would act definitively to deal with sin and bring peace to his people (Isaiah 35:3-4; Jeremiah 33:14-16). Some began to look forward to the coming of God's Messiah who would inaugurate a new age of peace and justice.
The New Testament records that Jesus fulfilled his mission as Savior and Messiah that was both prophesied and defined in the Scriptures of the Old Testament (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 53:4-6). He taught his disciples to find in Hebrew prophecy the key to unlocking the meaning of his death (Luke 24:25-27). Consequently the first Christians used texts from the Old Testament to confirm the validity of their message that the risen Jesus was both Lord and Christ (Acts 8:32-35).
2. The Atonement completed
The reconciliation prophesied in the Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ. Through the incarnation of Jesus, God took the initiative leading to our salvation.
This found its complete expression in the self-offering of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. Fully open to God in life, he was fully obedient in death and laid down his life for others (Matthew 26:42; John 10:17-18). By dying on the Cross, Jesus made the Atonement. The Father's gift and the Son's loving response bridged the separation between us and God. We are reconciled to God in Christ and our sins are forgiven.