A Death That Brought Life
IT WAS the death of Jesus Christ upon the torture stake over 1,900 years ago that opened for us a door to life. Without his death we would have no hope of regaining the state of sinlessness and perfection originally possessed by our forefather Adam. We would have no hope of seeing the day when death no longer would terminate every human life-span. We would have no hope of experiencing a release from captivity to death by means of a resurrection. His life as a perfect human was given up as a ransom for us.
To ransom means to redeem from captivity or punishment by paying a price. A ransom buys back or releases, delivering a person from distress and trouble. Because our forefather Adam broke the law of God he missed the mark or standard of righteousness that God had set for all his creatures. Since no one can “produce someone clean out of someone unclean,” Adam’s offspring inherited the sinful condition he came into by his act of disobedience. (Job 14:4) From his day down to our day all his descendants have been born in sin and have been subject to death. “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) Was there any means by which man might be delivered from sin and death? Yes, but it was not up to man to decide how such deliverance could be had; it could be only by the making of atonement in harmony with God’s righteous law. Since, by his disobedience to God, Adam had lost the right to perfect human life for himself and his offspring, what he lost could be regained by obedient ones in God’s due time only if a ransom price were paid that was equal to what had been lost. A corresponding ransom was required to satisfy God’s just law.
No descendant of Adam has been able to provide the required ransom price because none has been sinless and perfect. “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) that he should still live forever and not see the pit.” (Ps. 49:7-9) Only God could provide it, but he was under no obligation to do so. It was an act of kindness, undeserved by Adam’s descendants, that God lovingly did provide a ransom price for them. The price was his only-begotten Son whose life he transferred from the heavens to the womb of Mary so that his Son would be born a perfect human. With Jesus’ life-force coming from heaven rather than from Adam by means of procreation, he was free from the effects of Adam’s sin. He was sinless.
By giving up his perfect human life, Jesus Christ paid the necessary ransom price that corresponded in value with the life of Adam before Adam sinned. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) Once the ransom was paid, another such sacrifice for sins was unnecessary. “Neither is it in order that he should offer himself often, as indeed the high priest enters into the holy place from year to year with blood not his own. 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.”—Heb. 9:25, 26.
The statement that Jesus was a “corresponding ransom for all” must be understood in the light of other scriptures. His death does not benefit all of Adam’s descendants irrespective of personal courses of action and personal attitudes. He did not pay the ransom price for persons who practice sin by willfully violating the laws of his heavenly Father. It is only for persons who appreciate the undeserved kindness God has shown them by providing a means for releasing them from bondage to sin and death. It is for those who acknowledge their need for a ransom and who exercise faith in it. Jesus himself limited the benefits of the ransom to such ones, saying: “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) Notice the qualification—”everyone exercising faith in him.” Thus the ransom is for all who exercise faith, not for all who live.
By his disobedience Adam fell out of harmony with God and became an enemy. All his descendants, because of inherited sins and personal sins, have come to be in the same position of enmity with God. The ransom sacrifice makes it possible for them to be reconciled to God or brought back into harmony with him. On this point the Scriptures state: “But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For if, when we were enemies, we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, now that we have become reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Rom. 5:8, 10) Here, then, are two of the many benefits that have been brought to us by Christ’s death. We can be brought into harmony with God and we can be saved.
Being saved means to be released from captivity to inherited sin and death. This is indicated by the scripture at John 3:16, which was quoted above, and by the following verse. As the scripture points out, Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for persons who exercise faith to have everlasting life, and thus be saved, rather than experience destruction, as would be the case if no ransom had been paid. Joh 3 Verse 17 states: “For God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.” The world of mankind will not perish in death, because Christ’s ransom sacrifice has made it possible to save from extinction men of all kinds who exercise faith. They will be given the gift of eternal life in God’s righteous new order now so near at hand. Many of them will even be resurrected from the dead. This could not be if Christ had not died as a ransom sacrifice.
We today can approach God and receive forgiveness of our sins, enjoying a clean standing before God, because of Christ’s sacrifice. When death approaches, we can, because of that sacrifice, have a firm hope that we will not remain forever in the extinction of death but will be brought back to life by resurrection. During Christ’s thousand-year reign, we can anticipate confidently regeneration to the state of human perfection enjoyed by Adam; and we can look forward to receiving the gift of “everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times long lasting.” (Titus 1:2) Thus the death of the perfect man, Jesus Christ, brought life to dying mankind.