What Did Christ Ransom?
Why is the ransom important? Who benefit from it?
DURING the 1930’s kidnaping was a popular crime among racketeers. It was a source of easy money. A victim would be taken and held for a stipulated ransom that would vary according to his financial worth or that of his friends. When the amount requested was paid it was a ransom because it brought release to the victim. The word “ransom” is defined by Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged, as “a redeeming or releasing of a captive by payment of a consideration. . . . a payment that releases from captivity, a penalty, or a forfeit.”
A ransom does not necessarily have to be money. It can be anything of value. It can even be men. In 1780 a treaty between the French and English specified that a French vice-admiral or an English admiral could be ransomed with sixty prisoners of war. The ransom varied according to the officer’s rank.
Mankind as a whole is in need of a ransom. They are in a captive state as a result of what happened long ago when earth’s only human inhabitants were two persons—Adam and Eve. This first human pair had been created perfect with eternal life ahead of them. They were free and had the prospect of a peaceful life devoted to subduing the earth and filling it with perfect humans like themselves. “Further, God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.’”—Gen. 1:28.
It was only right that God should require obedience from these two intelligent creatures of his. He gave them opportunity to demonstrate what course they would choose to follow and gave them fair warning of what would happen if they disobeyed. (Gen. 2:16, 17) But in spite of the warning they disobediently ate from the tree whose fruit they were told not to eat. Since sin means disobedience to God’s law or transgression of his will, it can be said that Adam and Eve sinned.
Because they ignored the warning and transgressed God’s expressed will they became captives to sin and its curse of death. There was no way for them to free themselves, and that meant their children would be born in the same captive state they were in. The situation might be compared with a man and wife who are in slavery. The children born to them would not be born free but would inherit the enslaved condition of their parents. So it has been with all the descendants of Adam and Eve. “That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Rom. 5:12.
All mankind have inherited sin and the curse of death from Adam because their life force came from him by means of procreation. His sin was passed on to them just as some diseases can be passed on from parents to children.
HOW TO REGAIN WHAT WAS LOST
By their act of disobedience Adam and Eve lost perfect human life. They were no longer perfect in God’s eyes; and as time moved by, the imperfection they passed on would become more and more manifest in the bodily functions of their descendants. They also lost their right to live in the paradise of Eden and partake of its abundant fruits. Besides this they lost the prospect of living indefinitely, of populating the earth with perfect humans, and of subduing the earth by transforming it into one big, peaceful garden. As great as these losses were there was one still greater, and that was the loss of their righteous standing with God.
It was beyond the power of mankind to redeem or gain back what was lost. They could not free themselves from captivity to sin and death by their own efforts. What they needed was a ransom that would bring release, but it would have to come from an outside source. No descendant of Adam could provide it. “Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.”—Ps. 49:7.
The ransom necessary to free man must be of equal value with Adam. Since it was a perfect man who lost life for mankind a perfect human life was necessary to redeem it. None of Adam’s descendants were equal to him in his perfection, and therefore none could be the necessary ransom. Animal life was also of insufficient value. The animals sacrificed by the Israelites could at the most only picture the perfect human sacrifice that could ransom mankind.
The shedding of animal blood in those sacrifices pointed out one further fact, and that is, that blood must be shed in order that man might be freed from the effects of Adam’s sin. This is because a creature’s life is in the blood. At Hebrews 9:22 it is written: “Yes, nearly all things are cleansed with blood according to the Law, and unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.” Thus the life of a perfect man, as represented by his blood, must be poured out in order to redeem what Adam lost.
HOW RANSOM FOR MAN WAS PROVIDED
Only Jehovah God could provide a suitable ransom for Adam’s descendants. He alone could cause a human to exist whose life force did not come from Adam. This was accomplished by transferring the life force of one of his spirit sons to the womb of Mary. By the regular process of birth a human was then born whose life did not come from Adam through procreation. Because it did not, Christ was perfect and free from inherited sin. He was not in captivity to sin and death.
Because Christ came into the world in this fashion he was human with all the human life rights possessed by Adam before sinning. He was Adam’s equal and thus a suitable ransom for mankind. If he had been an incarnation, a spirit clothed with flesh, he would not have been Adam’s equal. As such he could not have human life rights and could not ransom mankind. Only by giving up spirit life and becoming a human through the birth process could he be entitled to those rights. “He emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7) Since he was not an incarnation he was “like his ‘brothers’ in all respects.”—Heb. 2:17.
Christ was not forced to give up his human life and its rights in order to ransom Adam’s descendants. He did it voluntarily. It was an act of love on his part. “Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”—Matt. 20:28.
On the third day after Christ died on the stake he was resurrected as a spirit creature with heavenly life rights. Peter testified to this when he said: “Why, even Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18) As a spirit he was able to present the value of his sacrificed human life before God as a ransom price to release Adam’s descendants.
But this ransom does not bring a blanket release to all humans. Those people who persist in following Adam’s course of disobedience to God will not benefit from the ransom. It was purposed for those who would not follow that wrong course but who would be obedient and would exercise faith. “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”—John 3:36; 1 Tim. 4:10.
Why should God be a Savior to those who do not rest their hope in him and who are not faithful? Why should the precious life of his beloved Son be used to bring them the valuable things Adam lost when they are unworthy of them? Jehovah did not give his Son as a ransom for every human but rather for those who would exercise faith and be obedient. These are the ones he desired to save.
A world consisting exclusively of such persons from all kinds of men is what God purposed. It is this righteous new world that he loved so much that he gave his Son as a sin-atoning sacrifice. It was for all obedient humans who exercise faith and who would be the inhabitants of that righteous new world that the ransom was paid. “For 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.
Such ones who exercise faith will be cleansed of inherited sin from Adam by Christ’s blood, as it alone can cleanse from sin. (1 John 1:7) Because it does they will be freed from captivity to sin and death. All that Adam lost will thus be redeemed for them. Christ’s one sacrifice does this, and it does not have to be repeated. “But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the consummation of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself.”—Heb. 9:26.
WHY FAITH IN RANSOM NECESSARY
If a captive is told how he can be ransomed but he refuses to have faith in the means that could free him and so rejects it, he will continue in his captivity. So it is with humankind. God does not force the benefits of Christ’s ransom upon anyone. Its existence has been proclaimed to mankind, and it is up to each individual to accept it or reject it. It is only by accepting it and exercising faith in it that a person will experience release from sin and its curse of death. “But the Scripture delivered up all things together to the custody of sin, that the promise resulting from faith toward Jesus Christ might be given to those exercising faith.”—Gal. 3:22.
There are many professed Christians that refuse to exercise faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice. They refuse to see any sin-atoning value in his shed blood. They are similar to the ones Peter referred to when he said: “However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.” (2 Pet. 2:1) Christ bought the Christians with his perfect human life, but these persons ceased to recognize his ownership. When men reject him, he rejects them. They will never receive the things that Adam lost and Christ redeemed.
Unless a person has knowledge about the ransom and why it is necessary it is not possible for him to exercise faith in it. He must first know something about it, and this requires instruction in the truths of God’s Word. The Scriptures make it clear that God was not obliged to provide a ransom for mankind. The fact that he did was an expression of undeserved kindness toward man. This must be appreciated by those who want freedom from Adamic sin.—Titus 3:4, 5.
For a person to benefit from the ransom he must recognize his sinful condition. He cannot close his eyes to it and imagine himself free from sin, as some try to do. “If we make the statement, ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) He must gain accurate knowledge, and when he does he then has a basis for exercising faith in the ransom and in the fact that God is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
WHEN RANSOM BENEFITS WILL GENERALLY BE APPLIED
God has anointed Christ Jesus to be King of the righteous world he purposed in the beginning. By means of him and the Kingdom he heads, the present wicked system of things will be swept from the earth. He will then proceed to fulfill his Father’s purpose for the earth by extending to the survivors of that cleansing action the benefits of his ransom sacrifice. This will begin a reviving of mankind that will proceed until mankind regains all that Adam lost for them.
During this reviving period of one thousand years the dead who are judged worthy of a resurrection will be raised to life. This will be an emptying of mankind’s common grave and will mean that the death due to Adam’s sin will lose its sting. Adamic sin will no longer result in further death to man. The benefits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice will nullify it. Then the prophecy will be fulfilled that says: “As the last enemy, death is to be destroyed.”—1 Cor. 15:26.
After a short and final test obedient mankind will be justified by God and will once again have a righteous standing before him. The gift of eternal life will then be theirs. Christ’s ransom sacrifice not only will have brought them release from captivity to sin and death, but will have redeemed for them all that Adam lost.
But for anyone today to be among those who shall live to see this, he must be obedient to the will of God. He must exercise faith in God’s promises and in the value of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. It is only by obedience and faith now that he will be living then.