God’s Provision for Blessing Mankind
HOW loving the provision that Jehovah has made through his Son for blessing persons of all races and nations! He has promised deliverance from oppression, sin and death. What a glorious prospect! But how can such a marvelous deliverance be realized? How will God bless mankind?
It is vital for us to appreciate that these blessings will come to mankind only through Jesus Christ. For this reason, God inspired the apostle Peter to say of Jesus: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12) By gaining accurate knowledge of this provision and by exercising faith in God’s purpose in connection with Christ, you may put yourself in line for the grand blessings of eternal life.
ANTICIPATION OF THE DELIVERER
For thousands of years men of faith have awaited the fulfillment of this hope, and the promises of God gave them good reason for doing so. To the Hebrew family head Abraham, Jehovah made the promise that “all nations of the earth” would be blessed through his “seed.” (Gen. 22:18) That “seed” proved to be primarily Jesus Christ. The Scriptures clearly explain this, saying: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.”—Gal. 3:14-16, 28, 29.
God also provided for a priesthood and sacrifices under the Law given to Israel. These too pointed forward to Jesus. “Consequently the Law has become our tutor,” the Bible says, “leading to Christ.” (Gal. 3:24) The priestly functions under the Law directed attention to Jesus as the great High Priest. They pointed to the sacrifice of his own human life as the means to take away sins forever and bring deliverance even from death. It is for this reason that John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”—John 1:29; Heb. 9:11, 12.
Furthermore, Jehovah God foretold that the one through whom eternal peace would come to humankind would be of King David’s family line, and that he would rule forever as king. The angel Gabriel, in announcing Jesus’ human birth to Mary, said: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father . . . and there will be no end of his kingdom.” (Luke 1:32, 33; Isa. 9:6, 7) But unlike David’s reign, which was limited to just a small section of earth, Jesus would become the king of God’s heavenly kingdom and would rule over the entire earth. The Bible prophecy concerning his reign says: “He will have subjects from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”—Ps. 72:8; Dan. 7:13, 14.
Yes, the entire Word of God focuses attention on Jesus Christ as the one through whom Jehovah God will administer the blessings of eternal life to mankind. No wonder men of faith have looked forward with keen anticipation to the fulfillment of the promises regarding him. But where and when did this one originate?
Did you know that Jesus had a glorious existence long before he was born as a human here on earth? The Bible informs us that he is God’s “first-born” Son. This means that he was created before the other sons of God’s family. He is also God’s “only-begotten” Son, in that he is the only one directly created by Jehovah God; all other things came into existence through him as God’s Chief Agent. Thus, before being born on earth as a male child he served in the heavens, where he was known as “the Word,” God’s spokesman.—John 1:3, 10, 14; Col. 1:15-17.
Jesus could therefore properly say: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been,” and, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” And he could ask: “What, therefore, if you should behold the Son of man ascending to where he was before?” (John 8:58; 6:51, 62) Referring to the high position he had held in heaven, he prayed: “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.”—John 17:5.
HIS LIFE ON EARTH
In harmony with God’s purpose for blessing men of faith, the due time arrived for this heavenly Son to become a man on earth. This required a miracle of God. Jehovah, by his holy spirit or active force, transferred the life of Jesus from heaven to the womb of a Jewish virgin girl named Mary. Announcing this to Mary in advance, the angel Gabriel said: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.”—Luke 1:35.
It was well within the power of the Creator to do this. Certainly the One who formed the first woman with the ability to produce children could cause a woman to conceive a child without a human father. God himself was directly responsible for the life of the child. This child, Jesus, was not God, but God’s Son. He was a perfect human, free from the sin of Adam. How was that possible? Because, as the angel said, the “power of the Most High” was responsible; it even guided his growth while in the womb of Mary.
As foretold centuries before, Jesus was born in King David’s city, Bethlehem of Judea. (Mic. 5:2) He lived with his mother and his foster-father Joseph, working at the trade of carpentry until he was about thirty years of age. He was raised as a member of a large family, and this was known in his home territory, for later it was observed regarding him: “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?”—Matt. 13:54-56.
When he was thirty years of age God’s time came for him to do work other than carpentry. So he went to John the Baptist to be baptized or dipped completely under the waters of the Jordan River. (Luke 3:21-23) This showed that he was presenting himself to God to carry out the work that God had sent him to earth to do. By submitting to baptism Jesus set an example for all who exercise faith in him, and later he commanded that all who became his disciples should be baptized.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
However, something else happened to Jesus at the Jordan. The heavens opened, God’s spirit came upon him, and God himself spoke from heaven, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:16, 17) There was no mistake about it; this was the one whom all of God’s prophets had foretold! There at the Jordan, by means of holy spirit, Jesus was anointed by God to be the foretold great high priest, the king of God’s kingdom, and to preach while here on earth. (Luke 4:16-21) There was work for him to do.
For three and a half years Jesus preached concerning God’s kingdom throughout the land, and he taught his disciples to do the same. This was a work for which he came to earth, as he explained: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” And he kept busy at this work, “journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him.”—Luke 4:43; 8:1.
Though others in those days superstitiously avoided using the personal name of God, Jesus did not hold back from making God’s name Jehovah known. In prayer to his Father he said: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. . . . I have made your name known to them and will make it known.” (John 17:6, 26; Ps. 83:18) Jesus always spoke the truth, whether it was popular or not. In what he did he provided an example that we should follow if we want to please God. But he also accomplished more than that.
RELIEF FROM SIN AND DEATH
Jesus knew that his coming to earth as a man was a direct part of God’s arrangement for releasing humankind from sin and death. So he said: “The Son of man came . . . to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Exactly what does that mean? Well, a ransom is the price paid to obtain deliverance from captivity. In this case, Jesus’ perfect human life offered in sacrifice was the price paid to obtain mankind’s release from bondage to sin and death. “It was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, that you were delivered,” the Bible explains. “But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19) Why was such a release needed?
This was because Adam, the forefather of us all, had sinned against God. Thus, Adam became imperfect and lost the right to life. As a willful violator of God’s law, he came under its penalty of death. God had also established laws of heredity, which assure that we all receive physical characteristics and other traits from our parents. According to these laws, Adam could pass on to his offspring only what he himself had; so we received from him an inheritance of sin and death. (Rom. 5:12) All mankind therefore has been dying in payment of the penalty of sin. How could this death penalty be lifted and the requirements of justice still be met?
God did not weaken and compromise as to his own laws. This would have merely encouraged further lawlessness by a bad example. Yet he did not turn his back on mankind and leave them without hope. While sticking to his laws, God lovingly provided relief, not for the willful sinner Adam, but for Adam’s offspring, who, without any choice in the matter, suffered the effects of his wrong. God did this in harmony with a legal principle that he later included in the Mosaic law, namely, “soul will be for soul.” (Deut. 19:21) Let us see how that principle applied in the ransom provided through Jesus.
The “living soul” Adam, who forfeited life for mankind, was a perfect human. In exchange for what he lost, another human soul, equal to Adam, was needed, one who would offer his own perfect life as a sacrifice on behalf of mankind. (1 Cor. 15:45) No offspring of Adam qualified for this, because all were born imperfect. As a result they all die because they are sinners, and they have no right to human life that they can sacrifice on behalf of others.—Ps. 49:7.
So, God sent his own Son, who had been with him for millenniums in heaven, to earth. Jesus was born as a human, because it was a human life that was required. But he was born without the aid of a human father, so that he would be perfect as Adam was. God alone was the Father of the human Jesus, as he had also been Adam’s Father. (Luke 3:38) Thus Jesus was fully qualified to offer his life as a “corresponding ransom.”—1 Tim. 2:6; Eph. 1:7.
On Nisan 14 of the year 33 C.E. Jesus’ enemies put him to death on a torture stake. He could have resisted, but he did not. (Matt. 26:53, 54) He willingly laid down his life in sacrifice for us. As his apostle Peter tells us: “He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live to righteousness. And ‘by his stripes you were healed.’”—1 Pet. 2:24; Heb. 2:9.
That was indeed a marvelous expression of God’s love for mankind! The Bible helps us to appreciate it, 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) If you are a parent who has a dearly loved son, no doubt you can appreciate, at least to some extent, what that meant to God. It surely should warm our hearts toward him to realize that he cares for us so much.—1 John 4:9-11.
Jehovah God did not leave his Son dead in the grave, but raised him to life on the third day. He was not given human life again, because that would have meant that he was taking back the ransom price. But he was “made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18) During a period of forty days after his resurrection he appeared visibly to his disciples a number of times, in materialized bodies, to prove that he really had been raised from the dead. Then, with the disciples looking on, he ascended heavenward and was caught out of sight in a cloud. He returned to heaven, there “to appear before the person of God for us” bearing the value of his ransom sacrifice as the great high priest. (Heb. 9:12, 24) The requirements of divine justice had been met; relief was now available for mankind.
Even now we may benefit greatly from the ransom. By exercising faith in it we can enjoy a clean standing before God and come under his loving care. (Rev. 7:9, 10, 13-15) When, due to imperfection, we commit a sin, we can freely seek forgiveness from God on the basis of the ransom, with confidence that he will hear us. (1 John 2:1, 2) Furthermore, the ransom has opened up the way for preservation through the end of this present wicked system of things. It makes possible the resurrection of the dead. And it provides the basis for gaining eternal life in God’s new system of things, where it will be applied to mankind in order to wipe away all the effects of inherited sin.—1 Cor. 15:25, 26; Rev. 7:17.
RULER OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Before Jesus’ birth the angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus was to be a mighty king. Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus preached about God’s kingdom of which he was to be ruler, even teaching his followers to pray to God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” And he urged them to “keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom.” (Matt. 6:10, 33) The kingdom of God was the theme of his preaching.
During his ministry Jesus also performed miracles of healing and raising the dead to show on a small scale what will take place on earth under the kingdom of God. Of one instance, the Bible says: “Great crowds approached him, having along with them people that were lame, maimed, blind, dumb, and many otherwise, and they fairly threw them at his feet, and he cured them; so that the crowd felt amazement as they saw the dumb speaking and the lame walking and the blind seeing.” (Matt. 15:30, 31; 9:35) Imagine the happiness when, under Christ’s rule, blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, and crippled arms and legs will be healed. All sickness and suffering will be things of the past. What a blessing that will be!—Rev. 21:3, 4.
Although Jesus is the one anointed by God as ruler of the Kingdom, when he returned to heaven following his resurrection from the dead it was not the due time for him to exercise that kingly power. He needed to await his Father’s appointed time. (Acts 2:34-36) Yet, he pointed forward to the time when he would return with Kingdom power, saying: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”—Matt. 25:31, 32.
We are living in that time of separating now. Soon Christ on his heavenly throne will use his kingly authority to destroy the wicked and deliver meek, sheeplike ones who will inherit the earthly realm of the Kingdom. The Bible prophecy long ago foretold: “For evildoers themselves will be cut off . . . and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Ps. 37:9-11, 29; Matt. 25:34, 41, 46.
By means of Jesus Christ blessings are available to all mankind, but we must exercise faith in him in order to receive them. (John 3:36) We must become his disciples and submit ourselves to him as our heavenly king. Will you do that? There are opposers who want to hinder you, but if you put your full trust in Jehovah you will without fail receive the blessings that God has in store for those who love him.—Ps. 62:7, 8.