AN ALLEGORY of PENAL SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT
There was a King of a domain so vast that its boundaries had never been determined. No matter how far his subjects might venture in search of where those boundaries might be discovered, they searched in vain. It was a kingdom of resources so abundant that they were as inexhaustible as its dimensions were limitless, and purported to be freely available to all his subjects. The administration of its wealth was handled wisely and fairly, it seemed, though there were times and instances when and where this seemed not to be true. But, He had issued formal assurances in writing of how pure was his love for all those over whom he ruled, and he required of his subjects that they trust his assurances even when there seemed to be some evidence to the contrary.
Along with the issued assurances of his love was also the not-to-be-overlooked stern reminder that he held those same objects of his love to a standard of moral and ethical perfection. He was to be understood as a king of love and of wrath: Of love up to a limit, but of wrath without limit should he become offended by the audacity of any subject failing to measure up to his unbending standard of conduct. Sadly, as it turned out, down to the very last man, woman and child, the populace fell short of what he required of them and so great was his feeling of having been offended that he determined to get even with them by having them thrown into a fiery pit, the fire of which was of a special nature, that is, the disobedient wretches were to be kept alive in the flames to suffer torment forever and ever. (Somehow, "forever was not to be enough, it had to be "forever AND ever.") He insisted that the nature of his righteousness demanded this petulantly extreme reaction to their infamy.
But his love caused him conflict. On one hand, his righteousness demanded of him that he punish all failure. On the other hand, his love wished it would not have to be so. If only he could come up with a way to get around his own righteous demand, he might relent. While nothing could dissuade him from getting his rightful due, in his wisdom he thought of a way. So he gathered together all his subjects who immediately realized, by the terrible look in his eyes, that they had become a source of revulsion to him. As he pressed upon them all how repugnant they had become, and how deserving they were of being tormented forever AND ever, his tirade began to give way to a bit of tenderness and hope that things might not have to end so horribly.
He went on to fully explain how the conflict between his love and wrath seemed at first to be irreconcilable, but that he had come up with a way to satisfy both. Since His son, the kingdom's beloved prince, had argued fervently with the king, his father, that he not send away his subjects to a destiny of fiery torture, the two of them had come up with a plan. You see, there was this about the prince, that while no amount, and no end, of suffering by the sinners could ever appease the king's need to avenge himself, he, the prince, was of such a nature and of such value to his father that he would be able to absorb the whole of the king's outpoured wrath until none was left. This would be how love would find a way.
So before the gathered multitude of the wretchedly repulsive, the king brought forth his son, stripped him of his royal robes, and with a fury of unrestrained rage vented the whole of his fierce anger upon his son so horrifically that for the throng to even to try to imagine what pain the son was enduring was impossible. On and on and on went the vengeful assault until the prince became unrecognizable as human; his visage became so marred. Finally, it ended. The king was finally satisfied. He'd been propitiated and appeased. The last ounce of rage had been spent. The king sighed a sigh of relief. His son's suffering had provided the ground for forgiveness. His suffering had made forgiveness possible...BUT wait. Only possible. Not certain. For the king then turned to the multitude and said, "If you do not believe that what you've just seen me do to my son is the reason I can forgive you, then you will not be forgiven, and for you his suffering will have been for naught - a waste!"