By Leland M. Haines
Christ Foretold His Death and Resurrection
Christ's Death was Suffering
Christ's Substitutionary Suffering
Ransom, Redemption, Propitiation, etc
Jesus Conquered Satan so We can Over Come
Christ Foretold His Death and Resurrection
The Bible teaches that Jesus came into the world to redeem man through His death and resurrection. An early prophecy concerning Jesus' death and resurrection was given in His answer to the Jews' request for a sign. At the time of Jesus' first cleansing of the temple, He told them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). The Jews did not understand the meaning of His words. They thought He was speaking of the Jerusalem temple that took forty-six years to build, but He was speaking of His body. They did not realize Jesus was referring to Himself being raised three days after He gave His life to reconcile man to God. John wrote that when "he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said" (John 2:22).
In response to a question raised by Nicodemus, Jesus said about His future, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 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" (John 3:13-15). In this instance He did not mention His death but only the fact of His coming resurrection and its purpose.
The purpose of Jesus' coming to the earth was to save those who would believe in Him (John 12:47; cf. 3:17). He was the Good Shepherd, who came "that [men] might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . . I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. . . . This commandment have I received from my Father" (John 10:10-11, 13). Jesus gives us a forward glimpse of the cross where He would voluntarily give His life in full harmony with the Father's purpose.
In answer to a request for a sign, Jesus stated that none would be given except "the sign of the prophet Jonah . . . as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:39-40; cf. 16:4; Jonah 1:17). As we know Jesus spent only two nights (Friday and Saturday) in the tomb. The three days and three nights Jesus spoke about is used in an irregular Jewish expression idiom of numbering nights with days (cf. Esther 4:16, 5:1).
After Peter's confession that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16), Jesus told the disciples 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" (Matt. 16:21; cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). He repeated this to them in Galilee (Matt. 17:22-23; cf. Mark 9:30-31; Luke 9:43-44; 17:25).
When the time came for Jesus to give His life, He went to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. Some Pharisees warned Him that Herod planned to kill Him. He told them,
Nevertheless I must walk today, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Luke 13:33-35; cf. Matt. 23:37-39
On His way to the city, Jesus explained more of His plans: "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again" (Matt. 20:18, 19; cf. Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33). He explained this further when He answered the question of the wife of Zebedee about allowing her two sons to sit on His right and left in His kingdom. He spoke to her about the Gentiles exercising dominion and power:
But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matt. 20:26-28; cf. Mark 10:42-45
Jesus' last week was spent in and around Jerusalem with His disciples. Shortly before the Passover, He told His disciples, "The Son of man is betrayed to be crucified" (Matt. 26:2). Then just "before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father," He had a special supper with His disciples (John 13:1). Jesus took bread, broke it, and passed it out saying, "Take, eat; this is my body" (Matt. 26:26). He also took a cup, telling them, "Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed [poured out] for many for the remission [forgiveness] of sins" (vv. 27, 28). He then spoke to them that, "after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee"-referring to His resurrection (v. 32). John writes, in response to Peter's question, Jesus told Peter and the others He was going away, and they could "not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards" (John 13:36).
The leadership in Jerusalem increasingly opposed Jesus. They looked for every opportunity to find fault with Him, hoping to get rid of Him. Not only did Jesus foretell His death, but also the Old Testament foretold some special circumstances surrounding it.
During this time in Jerusalem, Jesus' cleansed the temple again, and continued His teaching. He denounced the leadership in many "woes" before the crowd because they bound heavy burdens on the people; doing deeds only to seen by men; shutting the kingdom up so men could not enter; neglecting the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; being the sons of those who murdered the prophets; etc. (Matt. 23). Because of this revealing rebuke, they increased their efforts to take His life (Matt. 26:3, 4).
The chief priests, scribes, and elders soon had Jesus arrested and brought to trial. At trial false witnesses made many accusations against Jesus, but none were strong enough to cause Him to be sentenced to death. Then after being accused of saying, "I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days" (Matt. 26:61), the high priest asked Him to tell "whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God" (v. 63). According to the law, He had to answer; so Jesus spoke the truth. He said, "Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (v. 64). Because of Jesus' own words, the Jews accused Him of blasphemy.
Pilate, the Roman governor, found "no fault in this man" (Luke 23:4). He wanted Jesus to go free, but felt pressure not to release Him. It was the custom for the governor to release a prisoner at the feast. Pilate thought he could free Jesus by offering to release Him or Barabbas, a notorious robber and insurrectionist. Pilate asked the people if they should release "Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matt. 27:17). "The chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus" (v. 20). And the people did this. The governor then asked, "What shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ? They all said unto him, Let him be crucified" (v. 22, cf. 23). Because Pilate feared a riot he gave in. But before he gave Jesus over, he symbolically washed his hands showing he was clean of their illegal act (v. 24; cf. Pss. 26:6; 73:13). He then told them, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person" (v. 24). And "when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified" (v. 26).
Jesus was quickly prepared for crucifixion. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of death ever devised. Designed to make death as lingering and painful as the body could endure, it was also considered the most shameful punishment possible. Jesus-the Innocent One, the Son of God, the Creator-by enduring crucifixion died a death of untold physical and mental suffering. To us the physical pain seems enough, but the mental suffering must have been beyond words when one realizes who Jesus is and what He endured as men rejected Him, while He suffered for their sins.
Jesus, the Christ or Messiah, was lead to a place called Golgotha ("the place of a skull" Matt. 27:33), and there He was crucified. There, as Jesus hung on the cross, He faced more jeers from the very people whose hope lay in Him. The passersby shouted, "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (v. 40). The Jewish leaders also mocked Him: "He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now" (vv. 42, 43; cf. Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-37).
Jesus endured as men rejected Him, while He suffered on the cross for their sins. He refused the mixture of strong wine and myrrh, which would have deadened the pain. He came into the world to die for men's sins, and He bore the full extent of suffering. Since His death was a voluntary sacrifice, He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He desired forgiveness for those who brought about His death.
Darkness gathered over the land for the last three hours Jesus hung on the cross (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44). We are not told the cause or the meaning of this darkness. But we do know one aspect of it. It was a testimony that He was the Light of the world. And as we will see later, it was one of the events that caused the centurion and other soldiers who crucified Christ to say, "Truly this was the Son of God" (v. 54).
The darkness brought a deep sense of loneliness to Christ. About the ninth hour (three o'clock in the afternoon), Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani," which means, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (v. 46; cf. Mark 15:33-35). This has also been translated, "My God, My God, to what sort of persons hast thou left me?" This gives the thought that God, by withdrawing His protective hand that was over His Son, left Him to suffer at the hands of His enemies without any hope of physical deliverance.
Jesus knew when He was near the point of death. John wrote, "Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith I thirst" (John 19:28). Suffering thirst, He needed a drink to moisten His throat for His last cry. At the time when the Passover lamb was slaughtered, Jesus cried with a loud voice, "It is finished," and yielded His spirit (John 19:30; Luke 23:46). Jesus' death finished His redemptive work. By giving His blood, the life of the body, He died once for all men's sins (Heb. 9:12, 14, 26; cf. Rom. 6:10).
At the moment of Jesus' death, the temple veil, which separated the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, ripped from top to bottom into two pieces. The torn veil symbolized the end to the old covenant's system of sacrifice and worship. The temple was no longer needed after He accomplished His work on the cross. The torn veil had served its purpose in preparing man for the Christ. The torn veil further-and more significantly-signifies that access to God is now available to all who enter through the Door and the Bread of Life. There is no further need for additional sacrifices or for a high priest since Christ "offered one sacrifice for sins for ever" (Heb. 10:12; cf. 7:26-28). Other events, such as earthquakes and the opening of graves, also occurred at Jesus' death. Some dead persons rose after Jesus' resurrection and appeared in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:51-54; Mark 15:38). A centurion, seeing these things, "feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God" (Matt. 27:54; cf. Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47). The multitudes assembled "to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned" (Luke 23:48).
Since the Jews did not want the bodies (Jesus, and the two criminals crucified with Him) to hang on crosses over the approaching Sabbath day, they asked Pilate to break their legs to hasten their death. This request was granted, "But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. . . . For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, 'Not a bone of him shall be broken.' And again another scripture says, 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced'" (John 19:33-37; Exod. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20; Zech. 12:10).
With the Sabbath rapidly approaching, one of Jesus' disciples, a rich man named Joseph, asked Pilate for Jesus' body. After Joseph received permission to bury it, he and Nicodemus wrapped the body with linen cloth and spices according to Jewish burial custom, and placed it in a new tomb near the place of crucifixion. The tomb was closed by rolling a huge stone across the opening (Matt. 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42).
The next day the Jews, remembering that Jesus said He would rise again after three days, asked Pilate to have the tomb sealed and a guard of Roman soldiers placed there (a "guard" was four to sixteen soldiers). The Jews feared Jesus' disciples would steal His body and tell the people, "He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first" (Matt. 27:64). Pilate granted their wish, and instructed the soldiers to "make it as sure as ye can" (v. 65) so there would be no way for the disciples to remove the body from the tomb.
Since there had not been sufficient time to prepare Jesus' body for burial, some disciples decided to return after the Sabbath to complete the burial. At dawn Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to Jesus' tomb.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matt. 28:1-6; cf. Mark 16:1-6; Luke 24:1-7
The Gospels tell of several other instances of Jesus being seen soon after this by His disciples. During the next forty days Jesus met often with His disciples and others (I Cor. 15:3-8). Finally, as He and the apostles were together at the Mount of Olives near Bethany, the time approached for His ascension. He explained that the Holy Spirit would come to give them power to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
When he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:8-11
When Jesus Christ "was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9), His earthly ministry ended after lasting about three years. This marked the beginning of the kingdom and the church. The disciples received the Great Commission from Jesus at this time. He told them, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:18-20).
John, in very familiar words, summarizes what happened: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).
Christ's Death was Suffering
After His resurrection, Jesus spoke to two disciples on the way to Emmaus about Old Testament prophecy, saying, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:46). Several times during His ministry Jesus spoke of His suffering: "that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things . . . and be killed" (Matt. 16:21; cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22); "It is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things" (Mark 9:12; cf. Matt. 17:12); "must he [Jesus] suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation" (Luke 17:25; cf. Mark 9:12); "I [Jesus] have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). After His death and resurrection, Christ told His disciples "all things must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44) in the Scriptures, and then opened their eyes so they understand them. He summed their teachings up: "it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead" (v. 46). His suffering is also emphasized in the following Scriptures: "suffer" is referred to in Acts 3:18; 26:23; Rom. 8:17; "suffered" in Luke 24:26; Acts 17:3; I Thess. 2:14, 14; Heb. 2:18; 5:8; 9:26; 13:12; I Pet. 2:21, 23; 3:18; 4:1; and "suffering" in Phil. 3:10; Heb. 2:9, 10; I Pet. 1:11; 4:13; 5:1. Scripture does not teach Jesus was punished because Jesus was sinless, and therefore innocent. We know the innocent can only suffer.
Many misunderstand what Christ did for man on the cross. They believe that man's sins were transferred to Christ, and He was punished for them. This view began with a misunderstanding of the Book of Leviticus. The Lord told Moses to tell the people that when a man brings an offering to the Lord, "he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him" (Lev. 1:4; cf. 3:2; 4:4). This ritual act does not signify the transfer of guilt. Only an animal without blemish was chosen for sacrifice. This "perfect" animal, although non-moral, was considered clean, and symbolized ethical perfection. If sins were transferred to the animal, it would been considered unclean, thus not qualified for a sacrifice. Although Moses does not mention the coming Messiah, we see this symbolized ethical perfection presence in the Messiah, the clean, sinless One. Only He could be wounded and bruised for our iniquities/sins.
The idea of transfer guilt/sins comes from a misunderstanding of what Aaron did on the Day of Atonement: "Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness" (Lev. 16:21). In this unique ritual act a transfer of iniquities, transgressions and sins by laying on of hands clearly took place; but the scapegoat was not sacrificed. "The goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness" (16:22). It being sent away into the wilderness symbolically showed removal of all their iniquities out of sight. This act covered only inadvertent or ritual sins. Other sins were not covered: "He [that] despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him" (Num. 15:31). The scapegoat was thus not a representation of the coming Messiah; it did not suffer for the man's sins.
The Leviticus emphasis was on giving of life. "The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11). It was not on death. Giving of this "life" sacrifice was a means to "cover" for sins because the life giving blood was sprinkled on the altar so the person could come to the Holy God. The sins were not forgiven. Forgiveness came through the suffering sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
Before we look into the New Testament's interpretation of Christ's suffering on the cross, let us state there is no simple, singular explanation of it. As Wenger wrote, "Many attempts have been made to give a single interpretation of the purpose and results of the death of Jesus on the cross. . . . The New Testament, however, presents six or seven accomplishments of Jesus on Calvary, and it is impossible to reduce these to a single theory without seriously weakening the total significance of Christ's death on the cross" (J. C. Wenger, Introduction to Theology, pp. 200, 201). With this in mind, let us now look at the things accomplished on the cross.
First of all, at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, His death was mentioned. John the Baptist saw "Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Those who heard the phrase "The Lamb of God" knew it referred to sacrifice, especially when joined with "who takes away the sin of the world!" This Lamb, as the Old Covenant's sacrifice, was perfect. He "knew no sin" (II Cor. 5:21; I John 3:5; I Pet. 2:22); thereby He could sacrificially suffer for man's sins.
As mentioned earlier, Jesus Himself foretold His death, telling "his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things . . . and be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matt. 16:21). As the Passover approached, Jesus had His disciples made preparations for them to eat. At the meal, "Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22, 23; Luke 22:19, 20). In the Mosaic Law, the blood poured out (Lev. 4:7, 8; 17:11), and the covenant (Exod. 24:8) all referred to the Passover (Lev. 23:18). Later the Apostles made reference to "Christ our passover [paschal lamb] also hath been sacrificed" (I Cor 5:7) and as our being redeemed by the "precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Pet. 1:19). Likewise, in a scene in heaven there was only One who could open the scroll. John wrote, "in the midst of the throne . . . stood a Lamb as it had been slain" (Rev. 5:6) who took the book and opened it (see 5:7-6:1).
Paul wrote about Christ being an "offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour" (Eph. 5:2). The author of Hebrews writes about "intercession"; Christ "offered up himself" (Heb. 7:27). Christ "appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (9:26); "he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever" (10:12; cf. v. 26).
Paul used the Greek term hamartia in two places (Rom. 8:3 and II Cor. 5:21) in a way that may appear odd to us. This term, as the equivalent Hebrew term, can be translated "sin" or "sin-offering." The early Christians, being familiar with the Septuagint's (the Greek Old Testament) use of it in Leviticus 4, understood these two meanings. The meaning needs to be determined from the context. Thus when Paul writes in Romans 8:3, "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin [hamartia], condemned sin in the flesh," they understood He was sent "for sin," that is, to give His life on the cross as a sin-offering that condemned man's sin. Newer translations follow this meaning here. The NIV has "to be a sin offering" (cf. NAB, also ASV, NASV, and RSV footnotes) and the NEB "as a sacrifice for sin." In II Corinthians 5:21, where Paul writes that God "made [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin," it would be natural for early Christians to think "to be sin [hamartia]" meant Christ's death was a "sin-offering." These Christians knew "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (v. 19), and that this occurred on the cross. They knew too that Christ, the Holy and sinless Son of God, was never mentioned elsewhere to be made "sin."
The theme of Christ, the Lamb of God, being a sacrifice is referred to several times throughout the New Covenant Scriptures. Let us look closer at what this accomplished.
Christ's Substitutionary Suffering
Christ's death was vicarious (meaning Christ did something on behalf of us on Calvary) or substitutionary, that is, He suffered and died on behalf of sinners so they might receive eternal life. This substitutionary act was announced six hundred years before Christ was born in Bethlehem by the prophet Isaiah, who "saw [Christ's] glory, and spake of him" (John 12:41). Isaiah says,
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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6
This crystal-clear Messianic prophecy shows Christ's death as a substitution for the sinner. As Paul wrote, Christ "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25); and "in due time Christ died for the ungodly . . . Christ died for us" (5:6, 8). Christ died for the ungodly, the sinner, for enemies (v. 10), that is, those who stood condemned before God. His death made it possible for man to be justified or righteous before God (v. 9). This "for" another means Christ death was a substitution act; His death was for others. The Son did not need to die since He was the sinless, eternal One, but did so that man could be forgiven. His death was a substitution in the eyes of the law so God's moral government was satisfied.
As Peter wrote, "Christ . . . suffered for us . . . Who did no sin . . . bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Pet. 2:21-24; cf. Isa. 53); and Christ "once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (3:18). Christ's suffering, by the substitution of the just for the unjust, brought us back to God through forgiveness. As the author of Hebrews wrote, "we see Jesus . . . suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). Because of this, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
Let us look at other terms associated with Christ's "sacrifice."
Ransom, Redemption, Propitiation, etc.
Ransom is a term Jesus used to describe His own mission: "the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28; cf. Mark 10:45). The meaning of ransom was clarified later by Jesus during the Last Supper. Concerning the cup, Jesus spoke, "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28; cf. Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20). The only other time the term was used is when Paul wrote, "Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (I Tim. 2:6). The giving of Christ's life, signified by the shedding of His blood, was a ransom for all sinful men, making it possible for the remission of sins of all who meet the conditions set forth by Himself.
Man has been brought back to God by means of a ransom. The term ransom means something of value paid to obtain the deliverance or release of a captive. Its usage may be observed in Exodus 21:30 and Proverbs 13:8. Jesus used the term in correcting two disciples who requested a place of prominence, telling all the disciples that "whosoever will be chief [great] among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:27, 28; Mark 10:45). The meaning of ransom is clarified later by Jesus, during the Last Supper. Concerning the cup, Jesus spoke, "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28; cf. Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20). The giving of His life, signified by the shedding of His blood, would ransom and result in remission of sins of all who meet the conditions of repentance and faith.
This concept of ransom was used by Paul when he wrote that we are "bought with a price" (I Corinthians 6:20, 7:23) and that "there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all" (I Timothy 2:5, 6). Peter wrote to exiled Christians that they were "not redeemed [ransomed, NASV, RSV] with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers [futile ways inherited from your fathers]; but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:18, 19).
Redemption is used several times in the Epistles. Paul wrote, we are now "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24; cf. v. 25); "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph. 1:7, 8); "our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (v. 14); "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:13, 14). The author of the book of Hebrews wrote, "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, . . . he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions . . .the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:14, 15). The term's basic meaning is "to buy back." Redemption is associated with man being "bought with a price" (I Cor. 6:20; II Pet. 2:1).
The verb "redeemed" is also used at John the Baptist's birth. His father, Zechariah, prophesied, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David" (Luke 1:68-69). Later when Christ was falsely condemned, the Jews "delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done" (24:20, 21).
Redemption and ransom mean Christ gave His life and was raised to make it is possible for man to come back to God. From Israel's background, these terms meant sometime of value was paid to obtain deliverance or release of a captive (Exod. 21:30; Prov. 13:8). From the early Christian contact with slavery, these terms meant release of a person from slavery. This is supported by Paul's use of a slave metaphor in Romans 6; "ye were the servants of sin . . . being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. . . servants to God" (6: 18, 22). Jesus' own life, that is His blood, was this "value" given for the repentant believer's release from the power of sin.
In understanding what happened, we should focus on what He did, and not so much on other areas of these concepts. Some like to ask about other details, such as, To whom was the ransom paid? This question is hard to answer because the Scriptures do not give a direct answer. The New Testament writers and early church taught that ransom emphasized that someone other than man paid for his release from the consequences of sin, and that this release was very costly, requiring the highest possible price, the blood of God's only Son. This seems to have satisfied the government or justice of God and freed sinful man so he could be forgiven and enter into fellowship with God. Some debate whether redemption involved paying anyone for the release.
Neither the New Testament nor the early church formulated a theory to explain to whom the ransom and redemption ("buy back") was paid. They were content to accept the fact of ransom and emphasized this without any thought to explain its operation. There are several theories that try to explain the meaning of the redemption and ransom process. Some of these are based on Anselm's (1033-1109) "satisfaction" theory. Most theories are defective because the Bible is silent on this matter.
Propitiation is used in older English versions (KJV, ASV, etc.): "Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins" (Rom. 3:24, 25); "he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (I John 2:2); God "loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (4:10). Webster defines the term as "the act of making atonement," and "to make complete satisfaction for, atone for sin; as expiate sin." The thought behind propitiation is that through Christ's death God's holy wrath against sin is satisfied so that that man can be reconciled to God.
This term, as many New Testament terms, comes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) and means mercy-seat covering. The Law demanded that sinners die for their sins. This demand was satisfied for the nation of Israel on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest took "two goats, and present[ed] them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Lev. 16:7). There lots were cast to determine which one was for "the Lord" and which one would be "the scapegoat" (v. 8). The one the Lord's lot fell on would be offered as a sin-offering. The high priest would sprinkle its blood on the ark of the covenant's mercy seat, located in the Holy of Holies (Lev. 16:13, 14; 17:11; Exod. 25:17-22; Heb. 9:5). The blood symbolized the life of the body; when blood left the body, death occurred. This blood covered the sins of the people until the Messiah's suffering and sacrifice would take them away. The second goat was set free to symbolize the removal of sins by the sacrifice of the coming Christ. The book of Hebrews teaches that just as the high priest entered the Holiest Place with the blood of the sacrifice, so Christ with "his own blood he entered in once into the holy place [the heavenly tabernacle], having obtained eternal redemption for us" (9:12; cf. vv. 13, 14, 24, 26, 28). Christ the Passover Lamb "offered one sacrifice for sins for ever" (10:12; cf. v. 14).
Jesus Conquered Satan so We can Overcome
Several Scriptures teach that Jesus conquered satan and the power of evil. Jesus Christ came in human form, yet was divine, so "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" (Heb. 2:14, 15); "The Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:8); "I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you" (Matt. 12:28); "To turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:18). This was the fulfillment of God's promise made to man after the Fall. Jesus was the One who "shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15).
This is just the beginning of satanic problems. In the end the devil will be cast down. John wrote in the Book of Revelation, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:10, 11).
Jesus's death enables Christians to overcome their "flesh" or "old nature." As Paul wrote, "Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom. 6:6); "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Because of this] let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (vv. 11-13). Paul wrote of his own personal experience: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Later he wrote, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (5:16) and "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (v. 24).
Christ enables all men to be reconciled to God, and to be a part of God's chosen people. This is shown in the following scriptures: "In Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. . . made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us. . . to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby" (Eph 2:13-16; cf. Rom. 5:1; Col. 1:20-22); "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17); "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:18, 19). Through reconciliation the enmity of man towards God is done away with, and a peaceful relationship is restored.
Salvation is another term used to describe the results of Christ's suffering. Although this term is used more often in the Old Testament, it finds major use in the New too. In Romans, Paul uses the term in his theme of the book. He writes, "the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). He also writes about "the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thess. 2:8, 9); "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (Titus 2;10); "salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (Titus 3:15). The author of Hebrews writes that Christ "became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9). And Peter writes, "That the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" (II Pet. 3:15).
The Greek word translated "salvation" is soteria and carries the meaning of salvation, deliverance, preservation, safety. It is an Old Testament term. We see this in the Samarian women saying to Jesus, "Salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and in her saying that He "is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (v. 42). There are many statements that Christ is the Saviour (Luke 1:47; 2:11; Acts 5:31; 13:23; Eph. 5:23; Phil. 3:20; et. al.). Paul reminds us our Lord, "hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Tim. 1:9, 10).
God's love for us was manifested by Christ on the cross. As John summarizers, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting" (John 3:16). Paul writes, "The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). He explained God's love further: "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through 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" (Rom. 5:6-10). Paul then makes it clear that reconciliation is a "free gift" and that the believer will "receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ" (vv. 17, cf. 15). Grace now reigns "through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (v. 21).
All men can be ransomed, have redemption, overcome the flesh, be reconciled to God, have salvation from their sins, etc., because of what Christ suffered for us on the cross enableing us to be forgiven. All this brings the Christian "joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement" (Rom. 5:11).
The full implication of some of these teaching are understood by many, so let us study what Acts and the Epistles teach in more detail.
III. Jesus Explains Through the Apostles
IV. God's Will for the Christian, and His Word
V. Come and Follow
The redemption brought by Jesus Christ is available to all who will believe, repent, obey, and follow Him as disciples. These are all important and necessary for eternal life. No person should think that faith alone will suffice. Faith alone will not nullify Jesus' teachings on repentance, the new birth, and discipleship.
Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). This promise still stands today. Searchers will find that repentance, the new birth, and discipleship are all made possible because of God's grace. All should remember too that "many are called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). Many fail to "enter . . . in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because straight is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:13-14, cf. Luke 13:23-24). God is ready to justify (to declare the sinner righteous before God) all who will come to Jesus by His grace.
Read the Bible
This booklet has attempted to show how God's grace has made redemption possible through His Son Jesus Christ. The reader is encouraged to turn to the Bible and search its passages to understand its message on redemption and God's will for your life.
The reader may wish to start a Bible study program by reading first the Gospels, especially Matthew and John. We should constantly read and study the Bible. To learn about God and His plan for us, we need to read, read, and read the Scriptures. Only then can we see for ourselves what Scripture teaches.
One who studies the Word sincerely and prayerfully in humility will find truth there. And we will find God's call to holy living.
This booklet is by Leland M. Haines, Northville, Michigan. Copyright by Biblical Viewpoints Publications, 1999.
The writer is the author of Christian Evidence, How We Know the Bible Is God's Revelation; The Authority of Scripture*; Redemption Realized Through Christ; and The Biblical Concept of the Church*
* coming soon. Now available at the bibleviews.com Web site.
For more on this subject, read the book, Redemption Realized Through Christ by Leland M. Haines. This book is available from Biblical Viewpoints.
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