“Release by Ransom”
“By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.”—Eph. 1:7, NW.
1. How did sacrifices under the Law fall short of effective “release,” but what purpose was served?
BORN in sin and shaped in iniquity, men were doomed to live in sin and pay its penalty, death. Under the Mosaic law given to Israel the sins of the people were forgiven in a pictorial way by the animal sacrifices made and offered up by the high priest. Yet in a real sense the blood of bulls did not effect an actual release of permanent nature from the penalty of sin, death; for all those conforming to the law eventually died. Moreover, the sacrifices had to be repeated at regular intervals. The law covenant was actually a “shadow of the good things to come,” illustrating what God would do through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Heb. 10:1-3, NW) “Consequently, the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith.”—Gal. 3:24, NW.
2. What important part did blood play under the Law, but how did the coming of Jesus make a great change?
2 But even under the law arrangement righteousness was imputed only by the shedding of blood. In viewing the sacrifice and ransom of Jesus we must bear in mind the plain statement of Scripture that “unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” That is why Israel through the high priest continuously offered the blood of animals to obtain, in a pictorial sense, the yearly release from sins. But with the coming of Jesus Christ there is a great change, for “he entered, no, not with the blood of goats and of young bulls, but with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place and obtained an everlasting release for us.” (Heb. 9:22, 12, NW) No more was it necessary to periodically offer animal blood, for the one who was foreshadowed by these animal sacrifices had come and established an everlasting release. Now it was a matter of qualifying to receive the benefit of that release by ransom.
3. In what way was the sacrifice of Jesus superior?
3 The entry of Jesus Christ to make propitiation for the sins of humankind and thus effect a release was not an entry into any earthly temple. “For Christ entered, not into a holy place made with hands [as the high priest of Israel did] which is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us. . . . the Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many.” (Heb. 9:24-28) It was into the presence of Jehovah God in heaven that Christ went, following his resurrection, to offer the merit of the perfect lifeblood he had poured out, this to effect a permanent release for those of mankind who would exercise faith in the merit of that ransom. Peter confirms that it is the shed blood of Jesus that provides the ransom merit: “For you know that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, as a ransom that you were released from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.”—1 Pet. 1:18, 19, NW.
4. Why is it folly to regard the sacrificial death of Jesus as unnecessary?
4 The lifeblood of the perfect man Jesus, poured out in sacrificial death, is thus seen to have a saving merit in behalf of those who exercise faith in it. Hence it is the blood given in sacrifice that is needed to effect the salvation of the world, not merely the “profound, substantial, everlasting truths of the Christian gospel.” There would be no release without the shed blood. The Scriptures emphasize this truth outstandingly. It is sheer folly, then, to view the self-sacrificing course of Jesus as essentially unnecessary to his saviorhood of the world. If the merit of the shed blood is not applied in behalf of any person, that man has no hope of gaining everlasting life. The perfect lifeblood of Jesus Christ corresponded to that life value that Adam lost. When Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, he had in his possession the right to perfect human life with all its prospects, exactly what Adam by the sin of disobedience had lost for the human race. This ransom price Jesus handed over in the presence of God and in exchange therefore received the human race for the purpose of giving deserving members of it the opportunity to gain everlasting life.—Rom. 5:15-19, NW.
5. What great question is posed, and how does the wrong view of matters work injury to men?
5 This brings to the fore the question as to who benefit by the ransom. Do all men benefit, whether good or bad? Was it not God’s great love for all men that prompted the giving of his Son? And does not that support the view held by many that all must ultimately be saved, Adam himself included, and even the Devil? Decidedly not, for nothing could be farther from the truth. Holding to such a universal salvation theory works great injury upon men, for it blinds them to the real purpose of the ransom. It lulls men into a false sense of security and irresponsibility, for it tells them that everything will come out all right in the end, no matter what they do or how they live. Through belief in “salvation for all” they fail to see the need for examining God’s purpose and ascertaining upon what grounds they can qualify for “release by ransom through the blood” of Jesus Christ.
6. What simple facts support the correct view?
6 Stop, think, and examine some simple facts. When Jesus was on earth and preached repentance, some heard him in belief and others despised his teaching. To those who heard with belief and ‘stuck with him in his trials’ Jesus promised great blessings in the Kingdom. (Luke 22:28-30, NW) And he said that other sheep would in later times listen with faith and receive blessings, also. But to those unbelieving Jews who encircled him and derided his message demanding to know if he was the Christ, Jesus replied, “I told you and yet you do not believe. . . . you do not believe, because you are none of my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed.” (John 10:16-30, NW) Those unbelievers later tried to stone Jesus. Promise of a ransom to everlasting life was held out to absolutely no such persons, but only to the believers, the “sheep.”
7. The record at Matthew 23 presents what perplexing situation to those who believe in “salvation for all”?
7 Proponents of “salvation for all” must close their eyes to the scathing testimony of Jesus against the false teachers of his day, the scribes and Pharisees. Claiming to worship God, they did all manner of evil. Jesus predicted nothing good for them, but only woe upon woe. Forcefully he pointed out their utter inability to escape the judgment of Gehenna (destruction) at Jehovah’s hand because of their wicked course. Would you say, then, that he died to provide a ransom for them? Could they be both ransomed and destroyed? Certainly not, as any reasoning person must admit! Yet Jesus did tell them they were doomed; so there could be no ransom for them.—Matthew 23, NW.
8. Jesus’ instructions to his disciples support what view?
8 The instructions Jesus gave to his disciples add weight to the truth that the ransom would not apply to all men individually, for, said he, “wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than for that city.” (Matt. 10:14, 15, NW) He was pin-pointing the utter impossibility of ransom for unbelievers or those willfully wicked, because Sodom and Gomorrah were irrevocably condemned and destroyed, beyond any possible recovery.
9. How is there a difference between the position of Satan, Adam and humankind in general?
9 Satan the Devil is the god of this world based upon evil and wickedness. He is a deliberate and willful sinner and violator of God’s sovereignty. For him there is no recovery, but only a certain destruction. The man Adam willfully and deliberately chose the same course of rebellion as that taken by Satan, and God in justice meted out death to him. But for Adam’s offspring the situation is different, because they were born under condemnation as a result of Adam’s willful act, yet not because of anything they themselves had done. (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:10, NW; Hos. 6:7, AS; Rom. 5:14, NW) Hence, for them Jehovah provided the opportunity for recovery from this slavery by a release by ransom through Jesus Christ.
10. What transformation must take place in the life of one who benefits by the ransom?
10 In the days when Jesus preached the good news, not all of Adam’s descendants then alive heard and believed, and hence not all came under the ransom Jesus later made available. On the other hand, in the case of those who did believe, a marvelous transformation was made in their lives, as was true with the apostles. So today those who ultimately benefit by the ransom must first effect a transformation in their lives. It means more than refraining from evil and maintaining a neutral or aloof position from rank wickedness, thus hoping for ransom because of beautiful character built up through one’s own efforts. Rather, it requires hearing and belief in the good news that Jesus preached and that is, true to his promise, being preached today throughout the earth. It means activity in a positive way to support the entire arrangement of Jehovah God for the establishment of a new world, for which the blood of Jesus provided a basis. The Devil and all those who are of like mind, deliberate sinners, will not support the new world. Neither will they benefit by the ransom, nor ever experience release from slavery to their own selfish will, which drives them on to death.
11. How does the illustration of the “sheep” and “goats” show the ransom is limited? Why?
11 In describing the division of earth’s people into two classes, sheep and goats, as a result of the Kingdom message being preached, Jesus foretold destruction for the “goat” class but ransom and life for the “sheep” class. It will generally be admitted that the sin of one man, Adam, brought death to all men; but it is equally true that “through one act of justification [on the part of Jesus Christ] the result to men of all kinds is a declaring of them righteous for life.” (Rom. 5:18; Matt. 25:45, 46; John 3:36, NW) These “men of all kinds” are the “sheep” who hear and believe in the ransom merit of Jesus Christ, and who show their belief by their works and way of living. These are the ones who have the ransom merit of Jesus’ blood applied in their behalf, because they recognize its worth and apply for its benefits on the terms Jehovah lays down in his Word.
12. What additional facts show a limit to the ransom?
12 Carefully note that these “sheep” do not include all men of all nations no matter what their belief or living habits. Indeed not, for we must remember that the primary purpose of Jesus Christ is to vindicate his Father’s reproached name. Likewise the primary purpose of the ransom, in keeping with this, is to enable Jesus to buy out or redeem from the penalty of death men who by their faith and devotion would prove the Devil a liar. It follows that if some men, by their willful submersion in evil and complete disregard of the saving message of the Holy Scriptures, show themselves to be opponents of truth and righteousness, they have no hope in the merit of Christ’s ransom. “That is how it will be in the consummation of the system of things: the angels will go out and separate the wicked from among the righteous and will cast them into the fiery furnace.”—Matt. 13:49, 50, NW; Isa. 26:10, AS.
13. How does the Bible mark the selectivity of the ransom?
13 The Bible itself is careful to mark the selectivity of the purchase by ransom, saying of Jesus: “You were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9, NW) Note that those bought or ransomed for the Christian congregation, the heavenly “royal priesthood,” were “persons” out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation. Entire peoples and nations are not purchased wholesale. Why not? Because they do not qualify for the ransom. It is a difficult thing for an upright man to qualify for ransom because of the great testings of faith involved. “And if the righteous man is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing?”—1 Pet. 4:18, NW.
14. What further Bible record supports the availability of the ransom to all men, but on God’s specific terms?
14 A similar view of ransomed ones is described in Revelation 7:9, 10, and they come from all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues. Yes, it is God’s will “that all kinds of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4, NW) So he does not discriminate against any in granting them the opportunity to receive life by means of the ransom, but neither does he force the ransom’s benefit upon men against their own choice. He owes men nothing, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but in his loving-kindness he offers life as a gift, because “it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” But men must seek and accept that gift with thankfulness, as did the apostle Paul, who exclaimed: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable free gift.”—Rom. 3:23, 24; 2 Cor. 9:15, NW.
15. How is it that the “great crowd” cannot include all men?
15 The “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9 are shown as having a favorable standing before God because “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” and hence the ransom merit of the blood has been applied in their behalf. Certainly none of the willfully wicked, of men or angels, are included in this group pictured as benefiting by the ransom. It could not be so, because the wicked do not serve God at all, and yet this “great crowd” is described as “rendering him sacred service day and night.” They are persons from everywhere who have heard the good news and left the darkness of this world to walk in the light; and, as John says, “if we are walking in the light as he himself is in the light, we do have partnership with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”—Rev. 7:14, 15; 1 John 1:7, NW.
16. What “world” did God love that prompted the giving of his Son? And what must each person demonstrate in this connection?
16 Clearly, then, it was the new world of righteousness that God loved so much that he gave his Son to provide the basis for its establishment by the pouring out of his blood. It is a world now near at hand that will be inhabited by people who accept the free gift of life and who have been released from the condemnation of sin and death inherited from the common father Adam. And it is in this connection that each person must demonstrate his personal desire for application of the ransom merit in his behalf by belief and right works. Here is where “release by ransom” for all men individually is ruled out, because not all choose to serve God and accept the free gift. What, then, is required to come under the release?
17. How was the situation with Abraham similar to that with us?
17 Well, we must have faith of the same kind that Abraham had and, like him, we must back up that faith with works. Abraham believed Jehovah and ‘it was counted to him as righteousness.’ (Gen. 15:6, NW) Abraham’s faith gave him a good standing before God and because of this he is due for a resurrection and blessings of new-world life, made possible by Christ’s ransom. Paul argues that the expression “‘it was counted to him’ was written, however, not for his sake only, but also for the sake of us to whom it is destined to be counted, because we believe on him who raised Jesus our Lord up from the dead. He was delivered up for the sake of our trespasses and was raised up for the sake of declaring us righteous.”—Rom. 4:22-25, NW.
18. Why does the ransom not fail men of faith in bygone days?
18 Paul himself and other believers of Jesus’ day laid down their earthly lives sacrificially, because they all died faithful to God. Their faith, like Abraham’s, was counted to them as righteousness with God. It gave them a favorable standing and placed them in position to receive the “release by ransom” and all its benefits then by imputation. Because of proving faithful as Christ’s fellow sacrificers to the death they will receive a resurrection to heavenly life to be joint heirs of Kingdom glory with Christ. To Daniel, who was a man of faith like Abraham, the promise was given that though he died before Christ’s first coming, yet his righteous standing before God would not fail of benefit to him, “for,” said God, “thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot, at the end of the days.” (Dan. 12:13, AS) Held within the memory of God are all suchlike men of faith, and the ransom of Jesus Christ will not fail them in the new earth of the new world now close at hand.
19. What great choice is before all men today, and what is absolutely necessary on their part?
19 Today we have approached the end of this old system of things. It marks the time of final warning to all nations, and the close-at-hand complete “release by ransom” for men of all kinds who prove of good will. Before all of us there is a great choice, namely, to accept the gift of God or cast it aside. True to the accurate prediction of Jesus, the good news of the Kingdom is being preached in all the inhabited earth as a testimony. (1 Cor. 10:11; Matt. 24:14, NW) Persons who hear must, before they can ever place their hope in the great blessings of the Kingdom, first exercise faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. They must appreciate the efficacy of his blood in opening up the way to life in that new world. They must be firmly convinced that there is “one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all kinds of people.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6, NW, margin) They must confess Jesus Christ as their savior, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, and seek their approach to God by means of him, according to the way outlined in Jehovah’s Word. This means they must dedicate themselves to him through Christ according to the principles of righteousness set forth in the Holy Scriptures, to be faithful servants of God and show their faith by works.
20. Why are mere expressions of faith ruled out? And what is really required?
20 It means more than joining in an emotional religious “revival meeting,” raising the hand and saying one is saved. It means more than opening one’s mouth to say, “Yes, I believe in Jesus Christ and in his shed blood.” If that were all there is to it, anyone could do that, including drunkards, fornicators, idolaters and murderers. But the Scriptures are plain in declaring that such kind of persons do not qualify for the ransom. (1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:20, 21, NW) No, it means, rather, the development of a new pattern of life and the setting aside of the old. It means conscientious effort to let one’s actions and living be governed by the fixed principles of Jehovah’s Word, and to keep one’s hope and desire established in the new world of righteousness. It means following the advice of the apostle John who said of this present corrupt system of things, “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; . . . Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.
21. So what is to be done?
21 So do what, then? “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality which through accurate knowledge is being renewed according to the image of the one who created it, . . . let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts, . . . Let the word of the Christ reside in you richly in all wisdom. . . . And whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.”—Col. 3:9-17, NW.
22. Can you do it? Why and how?
22 If you do this you will be walking in the light and following a life pattern that will guarantee salvation to yourself. But you say, “How can I do this? Is it possible for me to make such a complete change when all my life I have been trained in the ways of the old world?” Yes, it is possible, otherwise Jesus Christ would not have died to save men of all kinds from all tribes, tongues and nations. And they could not benefit by his ransom if it were not possible for them to change and hew out a new life pattern. So you can do it! Therefore “God, after producing his Servant, sent him forth to bless you by turning each one away from your wicked deeds.” “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah and that he may send forth the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven, indeed, must contain within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.”—Acts 3:26, 19-21, NW.
23. Where is the starting point? And how is the heart involved?
23 How will you start? Well, first put aside all false religious ideas you may have concerning the ransom of Jesus as applying to all men. And put aside teachings that tell you all you need do to gain God’s approval is live a decent life and do to others as you would have them do to you. Yes, you must put aside these ideas that you have been taught all your life and you must begin to fill your mind with the correct teachings of the Sacred Scriptures. You must “quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.” (Rom. 12:2, NW) Your mind is where you must begin, by absorbing the truth of God’s Word without false religious adulteration of any kind. This truth will overflow in your heart, too, and it will move you in the way of salvation by prompting right works.
24. If you will not become perfect now, what does this wise course do for you?
24 This does not mean you will now become perfect in the flesh. Nor does it mean that you will be admired by all men who will praise you for your high moral life. But it does mean you will have a righteous standing before God and your service to him will be acceptable; and that the merit of Christ’s ransom will therefore apply in your behalf, because you seek it in the proper way. Your faith will become manifest in your works, and you will take your place with other faithful servants of God, both past and present, and will “enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have gained our approach by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand.”—Rom. 5:1, 2, NW.
25. What knowledge and confidence will it bring you?
25 In such a position, with continued application of your mind and heart to study of God’s wonderful way of salvation, and of your hands in works of praise, you will be unshaken by whatever comes. (Rom. 5:3-5, NW) You will have full confidence in Jehovah God, being fully aware of his great love for the new world and for those who seek entrance into it. You will take courage in the knowledge that “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, therefore, since we have been declared righteous now by his blood, shall we be saved through him from wrath. For if by the trespass of the one man death ruled as king through that one, much more will those who receive the abundance of the undeserved kindness and of the free gift of righteousness rule as kings in life through the one person, Jesus Christ.”—Rom. 5:8, 9, 17, NW.
26. The return to what condition must you guard against? Why?
26 You will not be lulled into a false sense of security in the belief that God must apply the ransom merit of Jesus Christ in your behalf, but you will appreciate that full release by ransom is a marvelous gift and will be received only by men who seek it in the narrow way God has provided. So you will guard against a return to the evil ways and practices of the old world, a willful plunge once again into sin, knowing that only death can result; “for if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.”—Heb. 10:26, 27, NW.
27. What is the key to understanding God’s purpose in providing the ransom?
27 Make no mistake about it, Jehovah God has a very definite purpose in providing the ransom for mankind, and the key to that purpose lies in the vindication of his own great name. The building of a new world, including the starting once again of a human society that will worship him, is part of his purpose in the vindication of himself as the eternal sovereign. This helps us to understand why he arranges for the payment of a ransom by Christ Jesus, for through it a nucleus of men qualify to take part in the “new earth” after Armageddon and in bringing forth children and training them in the ways of God. “For the undeserved kindness of God which brings salvation to all kinds of men has been manifested, instructing us to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things, while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of our Savior Christ Jesus, who gave himself for us that by a ransom he might release us from every kind of lawlessness and cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for good works.”—Titus 2:11-14, NW.
28. What appearance of Jesus Christ will be both a blessing and a time of trouble? And what examination should be made by every person now?
28 The next striking manifestation of God and his Son, Jesus Christ, at Armageddon, will not be a pleasing one for those who do not qualify for the merit of his ransom. It will be a righteous act on Jehovah’s part, for “it is righteous on God’s part to repay tribulation to those who make tribulation for you, but, to you who suffer tribulation, relief along with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings due punishment upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will pay the penalty of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength, at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones and to be regarded in that day with wonder in connection with all those who exercised faith, because the witness we gave met with faith among you.” (2 Thess. 1:6-10, NW) Do not be lulled to sleep by the teaching that God must save all men. He will not do so! But he does make the ransom available to “all kinds of men” who will accept it on the terms he lays down. Examine whether you are meeting those terms, for it means your life.