The Corresponding Ransom
TO RANSOM means to provide release and deliverance on the basis of a price or consideration of value. The price or valuable consideration involved is also termed a ransom. In modern usage the term ransom generally designates the sum demanded for the release of one who has been abducted or kidnaped. In the Bible, however, the term is primarily used to describe the provision God has made to release imperfect man from the bondage of sin and death and give him the opportunity to gain eternal life. The idea of a ransom as a loosing from sin and death is peculiar to the Christian religion as well as one of its most basic teachings.
We cannot expect to understand and appreciate the teaching of the ransom unless first we are prepared to accept two basic truths, namely, that God exists and that the Bible is his Word. Why should not God give us a revelation concerning himself and inform us as to where we came from, why we are here, what our destiny is, and why evil has been permitted? Since God made ample provision to supply all our material needs, is it not reasonable to expect that he would also make provision to satisfy all our spiritual needs, our hunger for truth and for righteousness? Certainly it is. And so, as we examine the Bible, and note its harmony and candor; its history so abundantly verified by both archaeology and geology; its lofty principles and wise proverbs; and, above all, its prophetic element, we are forced to the conclusion that this book simply could not have been the work of imperfect men but must indeed be what it claims to be, the Word of the Almighty God Jehovah.—John 17:17; 1 Pet. 1:25; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21, NW.
From the Bible we learn that God has four cardinal attributes or qualities. He is perfect in wisdom, justice and love and almighty in power. (Job 12:13; Ps. 62:11; 97:2; 1 John 4:8) By virtue of his supremacy he is our King, Lawgiver and Judge to whom we are at all times accountable; and by reason of his being our Creator we are wholly indebted to him for all we have.—Isa. 33:22; Jas. 1:17.
Jehovah God created the first human pair in his image and likeness, therefore with a measure of wisdom, justice, love and power. (Gen. 1:26) He gave them a moral sense, a conscience, so that they could distinguish between right and wrong. He did not owe our first parents anything, but they owed God a debt of appreciation. As a test of their appreciation God commanded them: “From every tree in the garden you are free to eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you must not eat; for the day that you eat of it you shall certainly die.”—Gen. 2:16, 17, AT.
All of God’s work being perfect, Adam and Eve could have perfectly obeyed that command had they chosen to do so. Adam deliberately chose to disobey and thereby sinned (”to sin” literally meaning “to miss the mark”), and so was sentenced to death. (1 Tim. 2:14) “Because you followed your wife’s suggestions, and ate from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat, cursed shall be the ground through you, in suffering shall you gain your living from it as long as you live. By the sweat of your brow shall you earn your living, until you return to the ground, since it was from it that you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you must return.” (Gen. 3:17, 19, AT) A just sentence.
MERCY FOR OTHERS
That sentence upon Adam, though just in itself, did work a hardship upon others, his offspring. Not that God wronged them; no more than in modern times the state wrongs the children of a murderer by executing their father for murder. The sinning father is the one that wrongs his children. And so Adam, by his disobedience, cheated all of his offspring out of the right to life, they all being born after he had sinned and lost that right. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Job 14:4; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12, NW.
While God’s justice was satisfied with the execution of the death sentence upon Adam and did not require that he do something for Adam’s offspring, it being Adam and not God that caused them to lose their right to life, yet in his great love and wisdom God saw an opportunity to do something for such of Adam’s offspring as would not share their father’s selfish disposition but would have a love of righteousness. By means of a ransom he would uphold the majesty of his law and at the same time provide release for such of Adam’s offspring as were deserving.
Who could provide such a ransom? Certainly none of Adam’s offspring, for none of these had the right to life. (Ps. 49:7) The Bible shows that God extended the privilege to be man’s ransomer to his firstborn Son, the Word or Logos. He being a spirit creature, this meant that he had to become a human, for God’s law required justice, a “corresponding ransom”; a spirit creature could no more provide release than could an imperfect human.—Deut. 19:21; John 1:1; Col. 1:15, NW.
So when God’s due time came, “the Word became flesh”; “God sent forth his Son, who was produced out of a woman.” By emptying himself of his spiritual glory and taking on the form of a slave, he “came to be in the likeness of men”. (John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:7, NW) He was to be called Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins,” and so John the Baptist introduced him as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”. Jesus himself bore testimony that “the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul [or, life] a ransom in exchange for many”. As Paul succinctly states the teaching of the ransom: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.”—Matt. 1:21; 20:28; John 1:29; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6, NW.
Jesus as a perfect man corresponded exactly to Adam before that one sinned. When he voluntarily laid down his unforfeited life on the torture stake, and God raised him from the dead as a spirit creature, Jesus had in his possession the right to human life with all its prospects; exactly what Adam had lost for the human race. This ransom price Jesus presented in the presence of God and in exchange therefor received the human race for the purpose of giving deserving members of it the opportunity to gain everlasting life.—1 Pet. 1:18, 19.
This offering for sins was foreshadowed by the annual atonement-day sacrifices required under the law of Moses, in which a young bull and a he-goat were sacrificed for the sins of the people, and then their blood, representing the life, was presented to God in the most holy compartment of the tabernacle or temple, where God’s presence was indicated by a supernatural light.—Heb. 9:24-28.
BENEFITING FROM THE RANSOM
The question now presents itself, Since Jesus purchased the human race more than nineteen centuries ago for the purpose of giving it life, why is mankind still dying? Because just as God had an appointed time for Christ Jesus to come to earth and provide a ransom, so he has an appointed time for mankind to receive the benefits of that ransom. (Rom. 5:6, NW) However, since Pentecost A. D. 33 a small body of called-out Christians, referred to by Jesus as a “little flock”, have been receiving the benefit of Christ’s ransom. By reason of their faith in it and their dedication to God they have been declared righteous in God’s sight and have been given the holy spirit or active force of God in a way as to constitute them spiritual sons of God. Continuing faithful until death, they have the hope of sharing in the “first resurrection” with Christ Jesus and reigning with him a thousand years as part of the spiritual seed of Abraham that is to bless all the families of the earth.—Luke 12:32; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:29; Rev. 20:5, 6, NW.
However, the vast majority of those who will benefit from Jesus’ ransom sacrifice receive what Adam lost for them, namely, life on earth. This will be in a new world, concerning which Peter wrote: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:13, NW) And, since most of Adam’s offspring lie sleeping in the grave, the ransom assures that all such as are in the memory of God will have a resurrection: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”—John 5:28, 29, NW.
Bible prophecy shows that the new world is at the door and God’s Word holds out the hope that many now living will pass through the period of transition from this old system of things to the new system of things, just as did Noah and his family. And, since in that new world all sin, sickness and death will be done away with, it can be confidently stated that some now living will never see death, because of surviving into the new world. Toward them apply the words of Jesus recorded at John 8:51 and John 11:26 (NW): “Most truly I say to you, If anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all.” “He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life, and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.”
Thus by means of the ransom the effects of Adam’s transgression will be wiped out as regards all those who love truth and righteousness and who avail themselves of the opportunity for life that God presents to them. By it God will be shown to be, not only a God of perfect justice, but also a God of perfect wisdom, almighty power and, above all, a God of love.
Additionally, by the ransom God vindicates his supremacy. He demonstrates that regardless of what his creatures, spirit or human, may or may not do, his purposes will be accomplished; his word will not return to him void. (Isa. 55:11) And finally thereby he is able to reward all those of Adam’s offspring who prove the Devil a liar by maintaining their integrity in spite of all that the Devil can bring against them in the way of temptation and pressures. (Job chapter 1 and 2) Truly the ransom is as logical as it is just.