For some believers there are a few more concerns worth mentioning:
Some concluded that Jesus’ wholehearted submission to the Cross had, at least, to imply something other than punishment, that His death was restorative also, that there was something more happening at Calvary than assuaging an angry God.
Augustine believed, “Christ’s human attitude in proximity to his death is exemplary. He is a fitting and pleasing sacrifice on account of his obedience even in the face of death. This is what propitiates God.”
It is this debate that consumes us, the theories of the Atonement abound, because elements of Jesus crucifixion suggest so. To start with: as retribution, punishment does not require the cooperation of the offender, but Jesus went to the Cross willingly (John 10:18; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 10:9).
A. W. Tozer reminds us, “When Jesus died on the Cross the mercy of God did not become any greater. It could not become any greater, for it was already infinite. We get the odd notion that God is showing mercy because Jesus died. No–Jesus died because God is showing mercy. It was the mercy of God that gave us Calvary, not Calvary that gave us mercy. If God had not been merciful there would have been no incarnation, no babe in the manger, no man on a cross and no open tomb.”
The International Dictionary of New Testament Theology concludes,
“The law nowhere indicates that in sacrifice…an act of punitive punishment is executed; it in no way asks us to look on the altar as a place of punishment. …sacrifice in the Bible is concerned with expiation rather than propitiation.”
Punishment is final. Romans 3:23 the wages of sin is always death. Punishment, biblically speaking, is a sentence of death—spiritual and eternal (Hebrews 10:29 KJV) but what is evident to faith if not to reason is the our Savior rose from death—a point unaccountably overlooked by some.
It is, perhaps, of some interest that neither the apostles nor Jesus nor the writers of the Old Testament books ever referred to Jesus’ crucifixion, theologically, as a “punishment.” Our verse in Isaiah is better translated “chastisement.” [It is Hebrew for discipline, correction]
Notwithstanding any theological doubt, Christendom still endears herself to the old hymn, “Rock of Ages, Cleft for me…Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.”
“If the Cross of Christ is anything to the mind, it is surely everything – the most profound reality and the sublimest mystery.” ―
But there is a Biblical path through the labyrinth of theories and the focal point, for me, on which all theories teeter is the Biblical meaning of vengeance.