Was Healing in the Atonement?

by Spiros Zodhiates

It is a wonderful thing to discern the deeper truths of God's Word. No one should settle for the easy, simplistic solutions. There are some preachers who say that God will do anything at any time for anybody who simply believes, but we have already seen that God is sovereign as to when and how He will work. We must be honest and careful as we study the Word of God.

God's plan of salvation is that a person repent and look to Christ in simple faith as the all-sufficient sacrifice for his sin. This is the concept of atonement found in the Old Testament. The Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word is exilasms, which comes from hleo\s, meaning to provide for the redemption of man.

But what did this redemption entail? Was it primarily to redeem our spirits, or was it to liberate man from sickness and disease? We will examine that, and, although the word "redemption" focuses primarily on the spiritual dimension, no part of man's nature is excluded from the redemption provided by Christ on the cross.

There are three words we will do well to study: ltro\sis (3085), lutro\ (3084), and apoltro\sis (629):


ltro\sis is the rescuing of man from the consequence of his own disobedience and choices. It is the paying of a ransom-not to Satan into whose power man fell (Col. 1:13), but to the Father to satisfy the righteous requirement of His unchanging moral law.

The first New Testament reference to ltro\sis  is found in Luke 1:68. This is the Song of Zecharias when he learned that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to be the parents of John the Baptist. Zecharias said, "He hath visited and redeemed His people." Notice that this is a spiritual redemption.

Another reference is found in Luke 2:38 where we find Anna in the Temple when Jesus was dedicated by His mother and stepfather and "spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." Again, this is a spiritual redemption. Also notice that this spiritual redemption of Israel has not yet come. Here we have something predicted to occur based on what Jesus has now accomplished on the cross.

Hebrews 9:12 has the third usage of ltro\sis  and declares that the Lord Jesus "entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." This is a spiritual and eternal redemption.


Ltro\sis is a derivative from lutro\, meaning to redeem, which is found three times in the New Testament. Its first occurrence is in Luke 24:21 where two disciples, unaware of the Lord's resurrection, related their sadness when they said, "But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel." Here we see that the redemption was primarily from sin. There was not even a hint here of physical healing.

Its second occurrence is in Titus 2:14 where Paul states that Jesus Christ "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Here Paul is saying that the purpose of Christ's redemptive work was primarily spiritual. Paul does not even mention illness or sickness. The death of Christ does include provision for the healing of the total person, but that is not the primary emphasis. The last occurrence of this word is in 1 Peter 1:18 where Peter said that we "were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers." The New American Standard Bible translates "vain conversation" as "futile way of life." Peter is concerned with the spiritual lives of his readers. This is a spiritual redemption.


The third word is an intensified form of ltro\sis meaning complete redemption. There is a sense in which, even now, we possess complete redemption.

Hebrews 9:15 says that Jesus is "the mediator of the new testament, that by means of [His] death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." "Redemption" here is apoltro\sis. This redemption deals with "transgressions" (parabseis)-a serious breaking of the known will of God. The reason why Jesus' death was complete redemption is because His blood is superior beyond comparison to the blood of "goats and calves" (Heb. 9:12). The Old Testament sacrifices were incomplete-a mere sign of what was to come. The blood of Christ accomplishes apoltro\sis, complete redemption.

Another occurrence is found in 1 Corinthians 1:30: "Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." This is also a spiritual redemption. It is complete spiritual restoration. apoltro\sis  also occurs in Ephesians 1:7: "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." Here the emphasis is clearly on the forgiveness of our sins.

Again we find the word used in Colossians 1:14. It is an exact repetition of Ephesians 1:7. This is again a spiritual redemption for Christians. Paul used apoltro\sis in Romans 3:24: "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." No physical healing is evident at all in this passage, for it is a continuation of verse 23: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

So these three Greek words, ltro\sis, lutro\, and apoltro\sis, place the emphasis on the spiritual dimension of the redemption of Christ on the cross. As we have them, though, there are hints of more to come.

Our Future Redemption

Our redemption is complete now in the sense that it fulfilled the focus of the Old Testament sacrifices, and Jesus need never sacrifice Himself again, and we can add nothing to it. There is a sense, however, where apoltro\sis  refers to a future completion of our redemption.

We currently have "the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23). Our "first fruits of the Spirit" is our spiritually complete redemption, but our bodies are still often sick and weak. They are corruptible. We still suffer from asthéneia, weakness or sickness. We do not despair, however, even in illnesses which the Lord permits.

We are "waiting for" our complete bodily redemption, and if we are still waiting, it is obvious that we do not possess it yet. When will this possession happen? When the Lord returns for His people at the Rapture. Only then will we be liberated from the consequences of sin in our bodies. This is the hope of the believer.

Another use of apoltro\sis is found in Luke 21:28: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Jesus is clearly telling us that our complete redemption (spirit, soul, and body) will happen at His Second Coming (see Luke 21:25-27).

In Ephesians 1:14 the Apostle wrote, "which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption ( apoltro\sis ) of the purchased possession." Our spiritual redemption is now the down payment of our complete redemption that is yet to come. The final use of apoltro\sis is in Ephesians 4:30, where we are told to "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." When we believed, we were baptized in the Holy Spirit. We were marked as God's own. This is a mystical, spiritual union that exists between the believer and the Lord Jesus Christ.

So we now have our "sealing," and in the future at Jesus' Second Coming, we shall have our complete bodily redemption.

From Sickness-Why? Healing-How?
© 1999 by Spiros Zodhiates.
Available from AMG Publishers

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