What God Has Done to Save Mankind
1, 2. (a) How did a Roman centurion come to appreciate who God’s Son is? (b) Why did Jehovah allow Jesus to die?
ONE spring afternoon nearly 2,000 years ago, a Roman centurion watched three men die slow, agonizing deaths. That soldier especially noted one of them—Jesus Christ. Jesus had been nailed to a wooden stake. The midday sky blackened as the moment of his death approached. When he died, the earth shook violently, and the soldier exclaimed: “Certainly this man was God’s Son.”—Mark 15:39.
2 God’s Son! That soldier was right. He had just witnessed the most important event ever to occur on the earth. On earlier occasions, God himself had called Jesus his beloved Son. (Matthew 3:17; 17:5) Why had Jehovah allowed his Son to die? Because this was God’s means of saving mankind from sin and death.
CHOSEN FOR A SPECIAL PURPOSE
3. Why was it fitting that God’s only-begotten Son be chosen for a special purpose regarding mankind?
3 As we have previously learned in this book, Jesus had a prehuman existence. He is called God’s “only-begotten Son” because Jehovah created him directly. God thereafter used Jesus to bring all other things into existence. (John 3:18; Colossians 1:16) Jesus was especially fond of humankind. (Proverbs 8:30, 31) No wonder Jehovah chose his only-begotten Son to serve a special purpose when mankind came under the condemnation of death!
4, 5. Before Jesus came to the earth, what did the Bible reveal about the Messianic Seed?
4 When pronouncing sentence on Adam, Eve, and Satan in the garden of Eden, God spoke of the future Rescuer as a “seed.” This Seed, or offspring, would come to undo the terrible ills that Satan the Devil, “the original serpent,” had brought about. In fact, the promised Seed would crush Satan and all those who followed him.—Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:9.
5 Over the centuries, God gradually revealed more about the Seed, also called the Messiah. As shown in the chart on page 37, numerous prophecies gave details about many aspects of his life on earth. For instance, he was to endure terrible mistreatment in order to fulfill his role in God’s purpose.—Isaiah 53:3-5.
WHY THE MESSIAH WOULD DIE
6. According to Daniel 9:24-26, what would the Messiah accomplish, and how?
6 The prophecy recorded at Daniel 9:24-26 foretold that the Messiah—God’s Anointed One—would fulfill a great purpose. He would come to earth “to terminate the transgression, and to finish off sin, and to make atonement for error, and to bring in righteousness” forever. The Messiah would remove the condemnation of death from faithful mankind. But how would he do this? The prophecy explains that he would be “cut off,” or put to death.
7. Why did the Jews offer up animal sacrifices, and what did these foreshadow?
7 The ancient Israelites were familiar with the idea of atonement for error. In their worship under the Law that God gave them through Moses, they regularly offered up animal sacrifices. These reminded the people of Israel that humans need something to atone for, or cover, their sins. The apostle Paul summarized the principle in this way: “Unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” (Hebrews 9:22) Christians are not under the Mosaic Law with its requirements, such as sacrifices. (Romans 10:4; Colossians 2:16, 17) They also know that animal sacrifices cannot provide permanent and complete forgiveness of sins. Instead, these sacrificial offerings foreshadowed a far more valuable sacrifice—that of the Messiah, or Christ. (Hebrews 10:4, 10; compare Galatians 3:24.) Yet, you may ask, ‘Was it really necessary for the Messiah to die?’
8, 9. What precious things did Adam and Eve lose, and how did their actions affect their descendants?
8 Yes, the Messiah had to die if mankind was to be saved. To understand why, we must think back to the garden of Eden and try to grasp the enormity of what Adam and Eve lost when they rebelled against God. Eternal life had been set before them! As children of God, they also enjoyed a direct relationship with him. But when they rejected Jehovah’s rulership, they lost all of that and brought sin and death upon the human race.—Romans 5:12.
9 It was as though our first parents had squandered a vast fortune, plunging themselves into a pit of debt. Adam and Eve passed that debt on to their offspring. Because we were not born perfect and sinless, every one of us is sinful and dying. When we get sick or say something hurtful that we wish we could take back, we are experiencing the effects of our inherited debt—human imperfection. (Romans 7:21-25) Our only hope lies in regaining what Adam lost. However, we cannot earn perfect human life. Since all imperfect humans commit sin, all of us earn death, not life.—Romans 6:23.
10. What was needed to buy back what Adam lost?
10 Yet, could something be offered in exchange for the life that Adam forfeited? God’s standard of justice demands balance, “soul for soul.” (Exodus 21:23) So a life had to be offered to pay for the life that was lost. Not just any life would suffice. Psalm 49:7, 8 says of imperfect humans: “Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (and the redemption price of their soul is so precious that it has ceased to time indefinite).” Is the situation therefore hopeless? No, indeed.
11. (a) What does the word “ransom” signify in Hebrew? (b) Who alone could redeem mankind, and why?
11 In the Hebrew language, the word “ransom” signifies the sum paid to redeem a captive and also denotes equivalency. Only a man with perfect human life could offer up the equivalent of what Adam lost. After Adam, the only perfect man born on earth was Jesus Christ. Hence, the Bible calls Jesus “the last Adam” and assures us that Christ “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6) Whereas Adam passed death on to his children, Jesus’ legacy is life eternal. First Corinthians 15:22 explains: “Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” Appropriately, then, Jesus is called “Eternal Father.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
HOW THE RANSOM WAS PAID
12. When did Jesus become the Messiah, and what life course did he thereafter pursue?
12 In the fall of 29 C.E., Jesus went to his relative John to be baptized and thereby present himself to carry out God’s will. On that occasion Jehovah anointed Jesus with holy spirit. Jesus thus became the Messiah, or Christ, the one anointed by God. (Matthew 3:16, 17) Then Jesus embarked on his three-and-a-half-year ministry. He traveled throughout his homeland, preaching about God’s Kingdom and gathering faithful followers. However, as foretold, opposition to him soon mounted.—Psalm 118:22; Acts 4:8-11.
13. What events led up to Jesus’ death as an integrity keeper?
13 Jesus courageously exposed the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, and they sought his death. They eventually hatched an ugly plot that involved betrayal, improper arrest, an illegal trial, and a false charge of sedition. Jesus was struck, spat upon, ridiculed, and beaten with a whip designed to tear his flesh. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate then sentenced him to death on a torture stake. He was nailed to a wooden pole and hung there upright. Each breath was excruciating, and it took hours for him to die. Throughout that ordeal, Jesus maintained perfect integrity to God.
14. Why did God allow his Son to suffer and die?
14 Thus, it was on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., that Jesus gave his life as “a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6) From heaven, Jehovah could see his dear Son suffer and die. Why did God allow such a terrible thing to happen? He did so because he loved humankind. Jesus said: “God loved the world 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) The death of Jesus also teaches us that Jehovah is a God of perfect justice. (Deuteronomy 32:4) Some might wonder why God did not waive his principles of justice that require soul for soul and ignore the price of Adam’s sinful course. The reason is that Jehovah always abides by his laws and upholds them, even at great cost to himself.
15. Since it would have been unjust to allow Jesus’ existence to end permanently, what did Jehovah do?
15 Jehovah’s justice also required that Jesus’ death have a happy outcome. After all, would there be justice in allowing faithful Jesus to sleep forever in death? Of course not! The Hebrew Scriptures had prophesied that God’s loyal one would not remain in the grave. (Psalm 16:10; Acts 13:35) He slept in death for parts of three days, and then Jehovah God resurrected him to life as a mighty spirit being.—1 Peter 3:18.
16. What did Jesus do upon returning to heaven?
16 At his death, Jesus surrendered his human life for all time. Upon being raised to life in heaven, he became a life-giving spirit. Moreover, when Jesus ascended to the holiest place in the universe, he was reunited with his dear Father and formally presented to Him the value of his perfect human life. (Hebrews 9:23-28) The value of that precious life could then be applied in behalf of obedient mankind. What does that mean for you?
CHRIST’S RANSOM AND YOU
17. How can we avail ourselves of forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice?
17 Consider three ways in which Christ’s ransom sacrifice benefits you even now. First, it brings forgiveness of sins. Through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, we have “the release by ransom,” yes, “the forgiveness of our trespasses.” (Ephesians 1:7) So even if we have committed a serious sin, we can ask God for forgiveness in Jesus’ name. If we are truly repentant, Jehovah applies to us the value of his Son’s ransom sacrifice. God forgives us, granting us the blessing of a good conscience, instead of exacting the penalty of death that we incur by sinning.—Acts 3:19; 1 Peter 3:21.
18. In what way does Jesus’ sacrifice provide us with hope?
18 Second, Christ’s ransom sacrifice provides the basis of our hope for the future. In vision, the apostle John saw that “a great crowd, which no man was able to number” would survive the coming cataclysmic end of this system of things. Why will they survive when God destroys so many others? An angel told John that the great crowd had “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” Jesus Christ. (Revelation 7:9, 14) As long as we exercise faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and live in harmony with divine requirements, we will be clean in God’s sight and will have the hope of everlasting life.
19. How does Christ’s sacrifice prove that he and his Father love you?
19 Third, the ransom sacrifice is the ultimate proof of Jehovah’s love. Christ’s death embodied the two greatest acts of love in the history of the universe: (1) God’s love in sending his Son to die in our behalf; (2) Jesus’ love in willingly offering himself as a ransom. (John 15:13; Romans 5:8) If we truly exercise faith, this love applies to each and every one of us. The apostle Paul said: “The Son of God . . . loved me and handed himself over for me.”—Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 4:9, 10.
20. Why should we exercise faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice?
20 Therefore, let us show our gratitude for the love displayed by God and Christ by exercising faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Doing so leads to everlasting life. (John 3:36) Yet, our salvation is not the most important reason for Jesus’ life and death on earth. No, his primary concern was an even greater issue, a universal one. As we shall see in the next chapter, that issue touches all of us because it shows why God has allowed wickedness and suffering to persist so long in this world.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Why did Jesus have to die to save mankind?
How was the ransom paid?
In what ways do you benefit from the ransom?
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