The prophets of the Old Testament had announced the accomplishment of God's plan for the salvation of the human race in the Messiah, the Christ. When He came, He was seen fulfilling all those prophecies and proclaiming that the deliverance that had been promised was at hand. He, the great Prophet, was the end of prophecy, because all the prophets before Him had looked forward toward Him and because any future prophet would be unable to say anything about the redemption that had not already been said.
When Jesus began to preach, He first declared that "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand." (Mk. 1:15; Mt. 4:17) Indeed, the process of redemption had already begun, and Jesus' priestly ministry, though usually thought of in connection with His death on the cross, spans His entire lifetime.
The very Incarnation was an act of submission and of obedience to the will of the Father. On coming into the world, Christ said, "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body thou hast prepared me ...Lo, I come ...to do thy will, O God." (Hb.10:5-7) This is addressed to God the Father, repeating the prophetic utterance of David in Psalm 39:6.
In the Incarnation, Christ humiliated or abased Himself and "took upon Him the form of a servant..." (Phil. 2:7) He took upon Himself the sins of the world: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." (Gal. 3:13)
As Prophet, Christ taught and gave the perfect example: He made God known to man and He showed man how to live in relation to God and his fellow-man. He reunited God and man in His own person, being perfect God and perfect man.
Yet man's chief enemy, death, still reigned. It was in giving Himself over to death, so that, in experiencing what all men have to experience as a consequence of sin, Christ might defeat death by rising from the dead.
Christ offered Himself in sacrifice. He who had no sin offered Himself out of love for man even unto death. Yet death could not hold the One who was not deserving of it.
Therefore, Christ is the Priest in the basic sense of the word. He is a representative of the people. He offers sacrifice for their sins. Yet the uniqueness of His sacrifice lies in the fact that He had no sin of His own, unlike the priests of the Old Testament. Then again, as the celebrant prays during the Cherubic Hymn at the Divine Liturgy, Christ is both the One who "offers and is offered."
Although many prophecies, especially those of David in the Psalms, refer to the suffering and death of Christ as an offering for the sins of man (ie., Psalm 21), it is Isaiah, in Chapter 53, who gives the clearest picture of His rejection, suffering and death. "Surely, He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." (vv.4,5)
John the Forerunner, on seeing Jesus for the first time, declared to the people: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." On. 1:29) The lamb, which was the innocent, pure victim sacrificed under the old law for the sins of men, is applied to Christ as the Lamb sent from God, who would be sacrificed for the sins of the whole human race.
The Saviour Himself made many references to the sacrifice He was to make. In fact, according to His own statement, this was the very purpose of His coming into the world: "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mt. 20:28)
As the time for His giving His life approached, Christ spoke of the sacrifice as His glorification. "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified." (Jn. 12:23) He goes on to speak of His own anguish, "Now is my own soul troubled." (Ibid.) Then in answer to His own question, "What shall I say, Father save me from this hour?" He declared, "But for this cause came I unto this hour." (v.27)
From the beginning, Christ foretold the way in which He was to die and showed how Moses' action symbolized His crucifixion: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." (Jn. 3:14) The expression "lifted up" was understood to mean specifically "lifted up upon the cross." Those who look upon the crucified Christ and believe on Him will be saved just as those who looked upon the serpent which Moses raised were spared from death.
In calling Himself the only true Shepherd of the spiritual sheep, Jesus also said: "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep ...I am the good Shepherd ...and I lay down my life for the sheep." (Jn. 10:11-15) Again, it is the priestly sacrifice which is being referred to.
He also told the Jews how mankind was to receive the gift of eternal life: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." On. 6:51) The meaning of this passage becomes clear at the Last Supper. He takes bread and wine and institutes the Eucharist with terms and actions fitting for offering sacrifice. He will give His Body as a sacrifice. He will make bread that sacrificed Body, so that those who believe may consume the sacrifice. This was, of course, the normal order for the sacrifices of the Old Testament, according to God's commandment.
As the end approached, Christ's prophecies had to do with His suffering and death. After Peter's confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus began "to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Mt. 16:21; Mk. 10:33,34; Lk. 9:44)
The Lord further shows that the prophets prophesied concerning Him. Thus, in Jerusalem "all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished." (Lk. 18:31) There He should be delivered, mocked, spitefully entreated, spat upon, scourged, put to death, and then rise again the third day. (Lk. 18:32,33)
On almost every one of these occasions, it is noted in the Gospel that the disciples did not understand what the Lord meant. Peter even objected saying that these things could never happen to his Lord, but Christ rebuked him: "Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou art an offense to me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (Mt. 16:22,23)
Finally, after having suffered death for the sins of the world, and after His resurrection, "He opened the understanding" of His disciples, that "they might understand the Scriptures ...thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day..." (Lk. 24:45-47)
Thus Christ spoke many times about the sacrifice that He was to offer on behalf of the human race. While not actually calling Himself "Priest", it is clear from what He said about giving His life that He indeed exercised a priesthood. This is shown to us in the Gospels, not only by Christ's own references to His death, but especially in the very act of His bearing out His ministry.
The whole sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John proclaims the sacrifice that is to take place. After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, the Lord calls Himself "the Bread of Life". (v.35) The words which He used are crucially important: "The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (v.51) Then He astounded all those who heard Him when He declared,. "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in Him." (v.56)
In yet another chapter of this Gospel, there is what is often called the "high priestly prayer" of Christ. On. 17) It is so called because it was offered immediately before His betrayal, arrest and all the things that culminated in His death on the cross.
The content of the "high priestly prayer" deals more with the consequences of the redemption, the salvation of humanity. Here this is spoken of as its sanctification and glorification. Hence, the term "redemption" means the rescue of man from the reign and power of death by Christ's victory over death.
This salvation wrought by Christ's sacrifice has been called by the Fathers of the Church theosis (divinization or deification). And in this prayer this is spoken of in precisely these terms: "...[That] they also might be sanctified ...the glory which thou gavest me I have given them ...that they also may be one in us..." (vv.19,22)
The relation between the "high priestly prayer" and Christ's previous reference to Himself as the Bread of Life can be understood when it is pointed out that the "high priestly prayer" was offered at the institution of the Eucharist. Here the "hard saying" is explained. The question, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" is answered. The sanctification, the divinization or deification of man, is revealed as possible through the Eucharist, wherein the flesh and blood of Christ are given. Those who partake therein dwell in Him, and He in them, sanctifying them.
There are numerous texts from the apostolic epistles which speak of the redemption from sins by the blood of Jesus. For example, "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood..." (Rm. 3:24,25); "[Jesus Christ,] in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Eph. 1:?); "[Jesus Christ,] who gave Himself a ransom for all..." (I Tm. 2:6); "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Rm. 5:10). This last passage makes obvious the relationship between the two aspects of Christ's priestly work, redemption and salvation.
All the evidence cited above is convincing enough to acknowledge Christ's priesthood. Yet the most direct and detailed presentation is furnished by the Epistle to the Hebrews. This letter's fundamental thesis is the understanding of the Old Testament with the aid of the New. Briefly, its main features in relation to the priesthood of Christ are the following.
Jesus Christ is called repeatedly "priest," "great priest" and "high priest." His "appointment" was given Him b y the heavenly Father: "So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest but He that said to Him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (5:5,6)
Although His priesthood was not of the order of Aaron, it is placed on a parallel with his. "Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house." (3:1,2)
This great "High Priest" is passed into the heavens, but He can be "touched with the feelings of our infirmities," for, like us, He was "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (4:14,15)
It was Christ, the High Priest, "who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect ...[was] called of God an High Priest." (5:7-10)
As noted above, Christ is called a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Melchisedec was not only a priest of the Most High God, but also a King of Salem, that is, of justice and of peace. By this extraordinary association of two high functions, Melchisedec typified Christ, the extraordinary priest-king. (7:1,2)
Because Holy Scripture gives neither Melchisedec's genealogy, nor his origin, nor the end of his life, nor his predecessor, nor his successor, he again presented an image of Christ, the Son of God, who remains a priest for ever. (7:3)
Finally, Melchisedec received the tithes of Abraham himself and blessed them. In so doing, he blessed in the person of Abraham all of his descendants. All the children of Levi, the priests of the Old Testament, were thus blessed in Abraham by Melchisedec. Melchisedec received tithes of them all.
The point to be made here is that since he that receives the blessing is inferior to the one that gives it, Melchisedec is thereby superior to the priests of the Old Testament. In this he typified the priest that is above all priests, the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. (?:1-10)
The previous point, that by being a priest after the order of Melchisedec, Christ's priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood, which was after the order of Aaron, is amply detailed in Hebrews.
The priesthood possessed by Aaron was but for a time and was not sanctioned by an oath. Yet the priesthood of Jesus Christ, as changeless and eternal, was sanctioned by God's oath, "the Lord sware and will not repent." (7:20,21)
Then again, the priests of the Old testament died as men, their priesthood passing from one to another. Jesus Christ remains eternally; He possesses a priesthood that is eternal. (7:23,24)
The priests of the Old Testament were sinful men. They offered sacrifices both for their own sins and for those of the people. However, Jesus Christ, who had no sin, offered sacrifice for the sins of the world. (7:26,27)
Ultimately, the superiority of Christ's priesthood is demonstrated by the fact that the priests after the order of Aaron offered sacrifice daily. These sacrifices typified the expiatory sacrifice, but did not remove sins from themselves. (10:1-11) Jesus Christ offered Himself only once, as the true expiatory victim for the sins of the world. "By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (10:12,14; see also, 7:27; and 9:12-14, 26)
The teachings of the Fathers of the Church in every generation have been identical with the biblical concept of Christ's priesthood. Some of the testimonies from the generation which immediately followed the time of the Apostles follow.
"Jesus Christ, the High Priest of our offerings, the protector and helper of our weakness..." (I Clement, 36,1)
"Priests are a good thing, but better still is the High Priest who was entrusted with the Holy of Holies, Jesus Christ..." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Philadelphians, 9,1)
"May the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest Himself, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, build you up in faith..." (St. Polycarp of Smyrna, Epistle to the Philippians, 12,2)
Then too, there are the following examples from the universally accepted Doctors of the Fourth Century.
"The sheep, as the victim; the lamb, as being perfect; the high priest, as the offerer; Melchisedech, as without mother in that nature which is above us, and without Father in ours; and without genealogy above (for 'who,' its says, 'shall declare His generation? '-Isaiah 53:8) and, moreover, as King of Salem, which means peace, and King of righteousness, and receiving tithes from patriarchs, when they prevail over powers of evil." (St. Gregory the Theologian, Fourth Theological Oration, 21)
"He was the victim, but at the same time, the High Priest, the Sacrificer, but also God: He offered blood to God, but He purified the world; He was lifted up on the cross, but He nailed sin to the cross." (St. Gregory the Thelogian, Mystigogical Hymn to the Son)
"He is called priest, because in His body He offered Himself in sacrifice to the Father for the human race; sacrificer and victim, He sacrificed Himself, accomplishing His work for the whole world." (Epiphanius, Heresies, 69,39)
"He offered Himself in sacrifice in order to abolish the sacrifices of the Old Testament, in offering a perfect and living victim, for all; Himself, at the same time, victim sacrificial altar, God, Man, King, High Priest, flock, sheep, having done all for us." (Ibid., 55,4)
Now, what essentially was the purpose and the effect of that sacrifice of which Christ was the High Priest? Why was it needed and what did it accomplish?
The Holy Scriptures give us a very precise answer to these questions. They provide us with a remarkable picture of man's state without the redemption, the condition from which the human race needed to be redeemed.
We were impure in the eyes of God.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of the glory of God," (Rm. 3:23)
"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
(I Jn. 1:7)
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
"So by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (5:19), and His obedience was "unto death, even the death of the cross."
Because of man's sin, God placed him under the curse, and he suffered the punishment due to sin: death. It was from that curse that man had to be rescued or redeemed, if he was to fulfill the purpose for which he was created.
"In Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
(I Cor. 15:22)
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." (Gal. 3:13)
"[Jesus Christ,] who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Tit.2:14)
"Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (I Pet. 1:18,19)
Thus, the debt that we owed because of our sins has been paid: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross." (Col. 2:14)
"Ye are bought with a price." (I Cor. 6:20; 7:23)
We were alienated from God because of sin. What was necessary for man was to be restored to friendship with God, that is, to be reconciled.
"For it pleased the Father that in Him [Christ] should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself: by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight." (Col. 1:19-22)
By man's free choice, he had preferred the world to God. "Whosoever therefore will be friend of the world is the enemy of God." (Jas. 4:4) Yet it is the death of God's Son that has reconciled us to Him. "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Rm. 5:10)
The Scriptural evidence is clear. We were servants of sin. (Rm. 6:20) We were captives of the devil. (II Tm. 2:26) We were condemned to death. (Gn. 3:19)
Jesus Christ destroyed that slavery to the devil. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same: that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hb. 2:14,15)
We were idolaters, making gods out of everything: man and beasts (Rm. 1:23), lusts and pleasures (I Pt. 4:3), worshipping and serving "the creature more than the Creator..." (Rm. 1:25). Even covetousness or greed was idolatry. (Col. 3:5)
For this idolatry, too, man was condemned to death. "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death..." (Rm. 1:32) "...[Idolaters]...shall not inherit the Kingdom of God." (I Cor. 6:9,10)
It is in Christ that man has been able to return to the worship of the true God. "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." (I Th. 1:9,10)
St. Paul, in exhorting the Corinthians to flee from idolatry, reminds them that their worship of the true God has been made possible by the death of Christ and is realized for them in the communion of His body and blood. (I Cor. 10:14-20)
Since Christ has offered Himself as a sacrifice to God, those who believe in His saving death can have no further part in idolatry, nor any other thing equally detestable to God. (Eph. 5:2-5)
Man, then, has been redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ from his sinful state, from the curse and the sentence of death, from enmity with God, from slavery to sin and the devil, and from idolatry.
Does this rescue from sin and death bring with it any positive consequences? For the person who has faith in Christ, it does most assuredly. Yet that faith is necessary for his participation in the effects of the redemption.
Jesus Christ has established by His blood a new covenant with God and has brought about a new union with Him. "And for this cause, He is the Mediator of the new testament [covenant], that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." (Hb. 9:15,16)
Further, by His death Christ has brought all men into unity in Himself, specifically the Gentile and the Jew. "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ ...He is our peace-He hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us ...for through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.“ (Eph. 2:13-18)
Christ made us the adopted children of God and dwellers in His house. "God sent forth His Son... to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Gal. 4:4,5) "Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (Eph. 2:19)
By His death, Christ has given us the means of being justified, sanctified, and deified, "...being now justified by His blood..." (Rm. 5:9) He "bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness..." (I Pet. 2:24) "...Now hath He reconciled [you] in the body of His flesh to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight" (Col. 1:21,22), "that ...ye might be partakers of the divine nature..." (II Pet. 1:4). "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them..." (Jn. 17:22)
Christ has gained eternal life and glory for us. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (Jn. 3:14,15) "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation
perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one..." (Hb. 2:10,1.1)
Now, how can it be that the sacrificial death of One can accomplish all these things for the rest? After all, it was man that had sinned and owed the debt, even though we admit that the eternal Son of God became man and offered Himself in sacrifice to God. To say that He suffered for us and died for us must mean that He took our place and offered a representative sacrifice for our sins. Is this kind of substitution consistent with the principles of equity and justice?
In order to answer this crucial question, consider the explanation given by St. Paul in the fifth chapter of Romans: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (v.12) So it was that sin was first committed by one, and the consequence of that sin was death. This death passed to all men, not as to innocent bystanders, but because they have all sinned.
"...For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." (v.15) The effects of sin were so extensive that all men were subject to death. [The word "many" in the language of the New Testament means "all."]
"For if by one man's offense death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift and of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (v.17) The gift of Christ, eternal life, far outweighed the results of sin.
"Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." (v.18) Just as mortality was inherited by all, even though they may not have been guilty, so also the gift of justification was bestowed upon all without their deserving it.
"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (v.19) So everyone became a sinner as a consequence of the first man's disobedience. By Christ's perfect obedience, all have the possibility of being righteous.
What was inherited by all, as a consequence of the sin of Adam, was death, judgment to condemnation, and sinfulness. The expression "for all have sinned" emphasizes the fact that each man not only sins but has the responsibility or guilt for it.
The underlying idea in all the passages cited is that what affects one man affects all, although each man or woman is a person and not a part of some larger super-person.
St. Athanasius perceives the truth of the matter and provides the solution to the problem. "The solidarity of the human race is such that, since the Word of God dwelt in a single human body, the corruption which accompanies death lost its power over all." (The Incarnation of the Word of God, 9, n.2) In the same way that death had passed to all from the place of its original infection, the cure is affected from one starting point.
There is a real unity of human nature, although there are millions of persons, each grity. The Son of God identified with the human race in the Incarnation. In the same way, Christ, the New Adam, comprises each human individual. He is not just "another".
He that "taketh away the sins of the world" took upon Himself the sins of all men and of all times. In His holy humanity He committed no sin, but He was made sin for us. (II Cor. 5:21) "For being over all, the Word of God naturally by offering His own temple and bodily instrument for the life of all satisfied the debt of all by His death." (St. Athanasius, Op.cit.)
None of this can be understood purely in a juridical sense. From a purely human idea of justice, this way of redemption can appear to be absurd. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God ...the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (I Cor. 1:18,25)
The divine principle at work in the whole process of the redemption is love. For "God is love." In this was manifested the love of God toward us. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (I Jn. 4:10) "For God so loved the world," in spite of its sinfulness. "that He gave His only begotten Son." Christ took upon Himself human nature with its sins, "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn. 3:16) For Christ the High Priest, by virtue of His redemptive sacrifice, remits the sins of those who go to Him with love and repentance.
The sacrifice of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, was offered for all. Its propitiatory effects extend to all men.
The will of God is certainly that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ; who gave Himself a ransom for all..." (I Tm. 2:4-6)
All men were lost, and in the Saviour's own words, He came "to save that which was lost." (Mt. 18:11) He is the propitiation for and the salvation of the whole world. (I Jn. 2:2; 4:14)
St. Basil the Great summarizes this point in this way: "There is one superior to our nature; not a mere man, but one who is man and God, Jesus Christ, who alone is able to make atonement for us all because God 'appointed Him to be a propitiation through faith in His blood'--Romans 3:25." (On Psalm 48:3)
Again, St. Gregory of Nyssa remarks: "As a priest after the order of Melchisedec, He offered Himself to God in redemption, not only for Israel, but also for all men." (On the Lord's Prayer
Although Christ died for all, only those who believe in Him are saved.(Jn. 3:16) As St. John Chrysostom says: "The Lord died for all in order to save all; this death corresponded to the perdition of all, but it did not erase the sins of all, because they themselves did not wish it so." (On Hebrews, Homily 17, n.2)
The sacrifice of Christ redeems us from sin in general, from original sin, from past sins and from future sins. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (I Jn. 1:7) "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Rm. 5:19)
"God ...set forth [Jesus Christ] to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God." (Rm. 3:25)
"My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous..." (I Jn. 2:1,2)
St. John chrysostom describes the effect of the sacrifice in this way: "Grace has destroyed not only original sin, but also all other sins; moreover, not only has it destroyed sins, but it has also given us holiness; and Jesus Christ has not only restored everything that had been corrupted by Adam, but also has reestablished it more abundantly and to a better degree." (On the Epistle to the Romans, Homily 10, n.2)
Christ's sacrifice is effective for all times. This is why He is called "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8) and "a priest for ever" (Hb. 7:21). The redemption He has gained for us is eternal. "Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Hb. 9:11,12)
His reconciliation was universal, in that He tore down the wall of separation between heaven and earth by His cross. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." (Col. 1:19,20)
Jesus Christ, in His sacrificial death, carried out the will of His Father who had decreed to save the world by the blood of His Son-made-Man. By the Son's own will, He was obedient and underwent a lifetime of humiliation. "For the joy that was set before Him, [He] endured the cross, despising the shame..." (Hb. 12:2)
Now, His state of humiliation was followed by His glorification. On. 12:16) This was a glorification not of His divinity, which was always glorious, but in His human nature, which lie had taken into the unity of His person.
Just before His death, Christ prayed: "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee...I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (Jn. 17:1,4,5)
Then after His resurrection, having appeared to two of His Apostles returning to Emmaus, who were uncertain about the death of their Master, Christ said to them: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" (Lk. 24:25,26)
In his discourse to the Jews, St. Peter said: "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up." (Acts 3:13) Peter later wrote in his first epistle that the prophets foretold the sufferings of Christ and His glorification that was to follow. (1:11)
St. Paul likewise testifies to the glorification and exaltation of the God-Man after His death. (Phil. 2:9; Hb. 2:9)
This glorification is to be understood in the following terms. Christ entered as God-Man into the same glory that He had as God with the Father before the world was. (Jn. 17:5) The Father raised Christ from the dead, His body being made glorious (Phil. 3:21) and set Him down at His own right hand (Eph. 1:20). The God-Man ascended into heaven and was given authority over all, even the angels. (I Pet. 3:22) In fact, as Christ Himself says: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Mt. 28:18) He receives as God-Man the adoration that always belonged to Him in His divinity. (Phil. 2:10)
In the fullness of His divine glory, Christ will come again one day as King to judge the living and the dead (Mt. 16:27; 19:28; 24:30), and of His Kingdom there shall be no end (Lk. 1:33).