A Release from Death to Life
1. As described here, what might happen to a family of orphans that would give them reason to be thankful?
THE cruel wars of this twentieth century have resulted in many orphans. Imagine a family of orphans who have lost both parents. Without home or means of support, they are wandering destitute through life—hungry, sickly and without hope for the future. However, suppose a kindly gentleman takes note of their plight, and shows love toward them. He instructs his own son, who is unmarried, to befriend these orphans and to bring them into the home. There he cleans them up, feeds and clothes them, and pays off their debts. Becoming like a real father to them, the son raises them to enjoy a full life. Should not those orphans be thankful to the kindly gentleman and his son? Truly, they should thank them!
2. How have all of us become like “orphans”? (Romans 5:12)
2 Do you realize that you are a member of just such a family of orphans? Yes, for you are a descendant of Adam, the father of mankind, who through his own willful sin abandoned the entire human family to the miserable condition in which it finds itself today. Just like those orphaned children, we are “sold under sin,” inheriting this unhappy condition from Adam.—Romans 7:14.
3. Why are we powerless to redeem ourselves? (Psalm 51:5)
3 Since we are sinners by birth, all of us humans are in the seemingly hopeless situation described at Psalm 49:7:
“Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.”
Unless someone from outside the human family helped, we would all die and remain dead forever. For God cannot permit creatures that continue to fall short, or “miss the mark,” of his righteousness to keep on living indefinitely. They would be a contaminating influence in a clean universe.
4. (a) What shows that God cares for mankind? (1 John 4:9, 10) (b) Who is “the Son”?
4 However, just like the kindly gentleman described above, Jehovah God has shown that he cares for mankind, and he has acted as the Bible tells us:
“God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
This Son is described as “only-begotten” because he is the first and only direct creation of God. As we have already noted, he worked beside Jehovah as a “master worker” in bringing forth all other creations. As God’s chief spokesman, he is also called “the Word.”—John 1:1-3.
THE SON COMES TO EARTH
5. (a) How did the Son come to be a man on earth? (Luke 1:30-35) (b) In what way did Jesus correspond to the perfect Adam?
5 Jehovah arranged to send this Son from heaven to earth. God ‘prepared a body for him,’ a perfect human body, by transferring the Son’s life-force from the realms of heaven to the womb of a virgin, Mary, a descendant of King David, and so in the course of nine months she bore him here on earth as the “Son of man.” (Hebrews 10:5; John 3:13) When he grew to maturity as a man, this Son, Jesus, corresponded exactly to the original man, Adam. Just as the perfect man Adam had reflected God’s glory, so Jesus now reflected that glory:
“The Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father; and he was full of undeserved kindness and truth.”—John 1:14.
6 Jesus was not half God, half man. He was not God in the flesh. To atone for “one man’s [Adam’s] trespass,” “the one man Jesus Christ” had to correspond exactly to the once-perfect Adam. He had to be a perfect man, nothing more, nothing less. (Romans 5:15) Like Adam, Jesus could have married and produced his own family, made up eventually of billions of perfect humans. But that was not the Father’s will for him. God’s will was for Jesus to remain childless and to present himself as a perfect human sacrifice. His blood poured out in death would represent his perfect human life corresponding exactly to Adam’s life, and this he would use in buying all of Adam’s family to be his own. Thus Jesus would become “father” to this orphaned family, the “many” of whom he speaks at Matthew 20:28:
“The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”
CANCELING THE DEBT OF SIN
7. (a) How did Jesus obtain the “ready cash” to cancel mankind’s debt of sin? (b) How was he able to pay this over to Jehovah? (1 Corinthians 15:45)
7 Just like the kindly gentleman’s son in our illustration, who paid off the debts of the orphaned family, Jesus could cancel the debt of sin that the human family had inherited from Adam. However, Jesus must first have on hand the value of his life, like “ready cash,” to pay that debt. He had to die as a human in order to release his right to human life for use elsewhere. To this end, he willingly submitted to a cruel death at the hands of God’s enemies. But these enemies could not take from him that right to human life. It became now like “cash” in his hands. When God had resurrected him “in the spirit” and he had ascended again into heaven, he still had that “cash” on hand to pay over to Jehovah as a “ransom.” Thus he could buy back what Adam lost—life for all Adam’s offspring.—1 Peter 3:18; Romans 3:24.
8. What prophetic pattern does the Bible give of atoning for the sin of humankind? (Leviticus 16:34)
8 As in the case of the orphaned family described earlier, Jesus, as God’s agent, took action to relieve mankind of their distressed state. For more than one thousand five hundred years before Jesus made his great sacrifice, Jehovah had the Israelites enact, each year, a prophetic pattern of that procedure. On the annual day of atonement, Israel’s high priest slaughtered certain unblemished animals and carried their blood into the tent of worship (later, the temple), and there he sprinkled it before the mercy seat, which represented the judgment seat of Jehovah God himself. In this way he atoned for the sins of the people for another year.
9. How did Jesus fulfill the ancient pattern?
9 In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul describes in detail how Jesus fulfilled that ancient pattern:
“Christ entered, not into a holy place made with hands, which is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us. Neither is it in order that he should offer himself often, as indeed the high priest [of ancient Israel] enters into the holy place from year to year with blood not his own [with animal blood, not that of a perfect human]. Otherwise, he would have to suffer often from the founding of the world. But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the conclusion of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself. And as it is reserved for men to die once for all time [due to Adam’s sin], but after this a judgment, so also the Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many.” (Hebrews 9:24-28)
Thus in heaven Jesus completed the legal procedure whereby he could not only free mankind from their sins inherited from Adam, but also adopt them as his own family, to whom he can now administer everlasting life.
A GRAND EXPRESSION OF LOVE
10 What a high price Jesus was willing to pay in order to ransom mankind from sin! How happy we can be that the Father and Son have made this loving provision for the human family! It is truly a grand expression of their love for mankind, and we should show our appreciation thereof by joyfully accepting all of God’s provision for life on His terms. Those exercising faith in Jesus’ sacrifice may “most truly” have everlasting life, as Jesus illustrates:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever; and, for a fact, the bread that I shall give is my flesh in behalf of the life of the world.”—John 6:47, 51.
11. (a) What is required of those who desire everlasting life? (Romans 12:2) (b) What results from accepting the hospitality of God’s household?
11 In the illustration of our orphans, these waifs had to accept the standards of life in their new home. They had to clean themselves up. It is the same with those who show faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and who desire to have him as their “Eternal Father.” (Isaiah 9:6) As Jesus said to his disciples:
“If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
We should not think that this is too difficult, for, remember, Jesus also said: “My yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:30) And if we accept the hospitality of God’s household, and serve there wholeheartedly, we will experience untold joys. Just as the son fed those orphans, and helped to clean them up and clothe them, so Jesus will nourish us with spiritual food from God’s Word, the Bible, and help us to put on a clean, new personality, “created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Ephesians 4:24.
ADMINISTERING THE GIFT OF LIFE
12. (a) For whom does Jesus first do an atoning work, and for what purpose? (b) What results to those brought into the “new covenant”? (Hebrews 8:10)
12 For six thousand years now, death has “ruled as king” over mankind. That has been the wages of sin inherited from Adam, but now God offers us the marvelous “gift [of] everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 5:14; 6:23) How is this gift administered? First, Jesus carries out an atoning work on behalf of his “little flock” of integrity-keeping followers, 144,000 in number, who are “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb [Jesus],” and who are to “rule as kings over the earth” with Christ Jesus. (Luke 12:32; Revelation 14:4; 5:9, 10) On the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, these are brought into a “new covenant” with God as members of spiritual Israel, and each one of them must finish his course on earth in faithfulness, after which he shares in the resurrection to heavenly life. (Hebrews 8:8) A small remnant of this “little flock” is still serving on earth.
13 But look! In more recent times a “great crowd” has appeared on earth, “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” numbering into the hundreds of thousands. These also are exercising faith “in the blood of the Lamb,” Jesus, and proving integrity to God’s sovereignty. Shortly, they are to pass through the “great tribulation” by which God will destroy Satan’s wicked system of things, and on into a cleansed earth that will be transformed into a paradise. (Revelation 7:9-14) Through the loving administration of his kingdom, Christ Jesus will then apply the merit of his great sacrifice in their behalf so as to raise them to the mark of human perfection. Those who adhere to God’s sovereignty under test will enter into everlasting life.
14 And again, look! As paradise is restored to earth, behold the fulfillment of Revelation 20:11-13:
“I saw a great white throne [in heaven] and the one seated on it [Jehovah God]. . . . And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. . . . And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds.”
The masses of mankind in gravedom are to be restored to life on earth. They, too, are among the “many” of Jesus’ family, bought with his sacrifice, and whose imperfections he now removes. (Hebrews 9:28) He judges them, not according to their previous sins, but according to their deeds in measuring up to what is “written in the scrolls”—God’s requirements for their gaining life in the paradise earth.
15 Like the kindly gentleman and his son in our illustration, the heavenly Father, Jehovah, and his Son, Christ Jesus, do indeed perform a marvelously loving service in ransoming us humans from an orphan-like condition and restoring us to the real life. In contemplation of this magnificent provision, we exclaim:
“O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!”—Romans 11:33.