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Physical Healing and the Atonement: Understanding the Connection

There is spiritual and physical healing in redemption, also known as the atonement. This profound truth is illustrated through God's redemptive names, the cross typology, and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Scripture specifically defines and includes healing in passages on the atonement. Let's explore the biblical evidence supporting the connection between physical healing and the atonement, how the Old Testament foreshadows the healing work of Christ, and how believers can claim the promise of healing as part of Christ's atoning work.

atonement and healing

Physical Healing and the Atonement:

Understanding the Connection

Biblical Evidence Supporting the Connection Between Physical Healing and the Atonement

Psalm 103:1-5 - 1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

In this psalm, David praises God, highlighting two key benefits: forgiveness of sins and healing of diseases. He speaks of them simultaneously, underscoring that they are connected. David ties these benefits to redemption, suggesting forgiveness and healing are integral to God's redemptive plan.

Other Supporting Passages

1 Peter 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Peter echoes Isaiah’s prophecy, which we will discuss below. He emphasizes that Jesus' suffering and death on the cross were for our healing. This passage reinforces that Christ's physical suffering, symbolized by His wounds, was intended to bring about our physical and spiritual healing.

James 5:14-15 - Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 1And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

James links the practice of healing with the forgiveness of sins, suggesting a comprehensive view of salvation that includes physical healing. The passage indicates that prayer and faith can bring about healing, which is a part of Christ's atoning work.

The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 53:4-6 presents a vivid prophecy of the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, and underscores the connection between his suffering and our healing: Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

First, the Hebrew words used here are significant. "Griefs" (holi) means sicknesses or diseases, and "sorrows" (makob) refers to physical and mental pain. The verbs "borne" (nasa) and "carried" (sabhal) denote substitution and the bearing of a heavy load.

Let's read further in Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53:11-12 - Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

It’s understood that Jesus made atonement and bore our sins so we wouldn’t have to. The Lord laid on him the iniquity (sin) of us all, thereby releasing us from bearing the penalty for that sin. It’s equally clear in these verses that Jesus took up and bore our sickness, and the expectation we have regarding sin is the same expectation we can have for sickness.

In verse 12, Jesus bore our iniquities, and by using the same verb in verse 4, we can see the same substitutionary and atoning character, which states Jesus took our place and bore our sickness, disease, and physical and mental pain and anguish.

Jesus paid it all; sin was paid through the shedding of blood and sickness through physical beatings and lacerations. Christ made atonement for sin and sickness, redeeming humanity from both, triumphing over them to bring salvation to our entire being in the present day.

New Testament Confirmation

Matthew 8:16-17 provides a New Testament confirmation of this understanding: That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 'He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.'

Matthew directly applies Isaiah's prophecy to Jesus’ healing ministry, affirming that physical healing fulfills the atonement. This connection is crucial as it demonstrates that Jesus’ work on the cross was intended to address both sin and sickness.

Further New Testament passages indicate the connection between sin and sickness in this context.

Matthew 9:1-8 (Paralytic Man): In this passage, Jesus heals a paralyzed man but first tells him that his sins are forgiven, which causes controversy among the religious leaders. Jesus says: For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Here, Jesus explicitly links physical healing with the authority to forgive sins, suggesting a connection between spiritual and physical restoration.

John 5:1-15 (Healing at the Pool of Bethesda): After healing a man who had been an invalid for 38 years, Jesus later finds him and says: “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” This statement implies a connection between the man's physical and spiritual conditions.

These passages demonstrate a significant theological link between Jesus’ healing ministry and his atoning work on the cross within the New Testament narrative.

The Old Testament Foreshadowing the Healing Work of Christ

The Cleansing of the Leper (Leviticus 14:1-7): The ritual cleansing of a leper involved the sacrifice of two birds—one representing death and the other resurrection. This typifies Jesus' death and resurrection, foreshadowing the atonement's role in spiritual and physical healing.

The Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21:4-9): God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole when poisonous snakes bit the Israelites. Those who looked at it were healed. Jesus refers to this event in John 3:14-15, likening Himself to the bronze serpent. This signifies that just as the Israelites were healed by looking at the bronze serpent, we are healed by looking to Christ's atonement.

How Believers Can Claim the Promise of Healing

Matthew confirms that Jesus' healing ministry fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy, as we read above. This passage emphasizes that Christ's atoning work includes physical healing. Believers can claim this promise through faith in Jesus' completed work.

Galatians 3:13 - Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.' Paul asserts that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, which includes sickness and disease as part of the curse. Therefore, through Christ's atonement, believers are redeemed from sickness.

pauls thorn in the flesh

Further Passages To Study

  • Exodus 15:23-26

  • Numbers 16:41-50

  • Matthew 9:35

  • Mark 2:9-12

  • John 10:10

  • Acts 10:38


The connection between physical healing and atonement is a profound aspect of God's redemptive plan. Through Christ's suffering and sacrifice, believers are offered spiritual salvation and physical healing. This truth is woven throughout the Bible, from the Old Testament foreshadowings to the New Testament fulfillments. By faith, we can claim the promise of healing, knowing that Jesus has paid the price for our sins and sicknesses.

Question for Reflection

How have you experienced God's healing in your life, and in what ways has understanding the connection between physical healing and the atonement strengthened your faith?

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Thanks for this explanation. It is exactly what I was looking for.

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