The Ransom, Marvelous Expression of Love and Justice
1, 2. (a) When the issue was joined, what promise did Jehovah make, prompting what question? (b) Why was the only-begotten Son selected as the one to be primary vindicator of God?
JEHOVAH, in harmony with the dignity of his universal sovereignty, works out seemingly impossible problems in a way that we marvel at. And afterward we say, ‘It just could not have been done in any other way and been so thorough, righteous and altogether good.’ (Isa. 55:9) So, at the very time the issue was joined, God, in his foreknowledge of exactly what he would do, announced: “He [the seed] will bruise you [Satan] in the head.”—Gen. 3:15.
2 Who would be designated by God to be the “seed,” to be bruised in the heel? Jehovah’s only-begotten Son! He was chosen as the one to serve for the primary settlement of the issue regarding the worthiness and righteousness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. Why this great one so close to Jehovah’s heart? Well, when Satan made his challenge it put a shadow on the reputation of every creature. It would reach clear up to this Son.* More than that, it would focus more on him than on any one of the other creatures of God because, first of all, he was the chief one of Jehovah, next to him in the universe. He was the one who was always in command of the other angels. He had been co-worker with God in making the universe. (Col. 1:15-17) A challenger of God could say, Of all the creatures who would be faithful in serving God, he should be. So Satan’s challenge brought this mighty Son of God into the limelight.
3. What significance did the name of the Son in his prehuman existence have?
3 Also, the only-begotten Son’s name in his prehuman existence bears upon the situation—his name Michael. (Dan. 12:1; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 12:7) It means “Who is like God?” The name itself is a question. It is as if to say that if anyone should rise up and challenge God, would try to rival God, Michael would be the foremost one upon whom the duty would devolve to stand up and say, ‘Who is this who challenges my Father? I will prove to him there is no one like Jehovah God.’ So his name actually designated him as the one who would be Vindicator and Settler of this issue in Jehovah’s behalf.*
4, 5. Why was the only-begotten Son the best one to be chosen, and was his response a forced one?
4 We can look at the matter from another angle, as to why he was the one chosen. He was not forced to serve for this purpose. The Bible shows that when Jesus came to be baptized he was saying: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted.” (Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:5-7) Of him it is also written: “You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness.” (Heb. 1:9) So we see that Jesus was keenly anxious, delighted to do God’s will. He himself said: “I always do the things pleasing to him.” (John 8:29) He was qualified above all others. Furthermore, in the Proverbs, chapter eight, this One, personified as wisdom, says, speaking of God’s creative work: “The things I was fond of were with the sons of men.” (Pr 8 vs. 31) He deeply loved mankind, whom God created. He gladly took this assignment to vindicate his Father, first out of loyalty to Him and, additionally, out of the deep love that he had for mankind.
5 Now, if this Son of God willingly accepted the assignment, what other angel could say, “No, let me take that assignment”? Who could step ahead of him? Michael had the prior position, to offer himself and to cooperate with God in this matter. He was Jehovah’s only-begotten Son, the closest one, the intimate of Jehovah God.—John 1:18.
NO CONDONING OF SIN
6, 7. Why could Jehovah not overlook the sin of Adam and Eve?
6 The ransom was provided by Jehovah through Jesus Christ. Love on the part of Jehovah God and his Son motivated the provision of the ransom. (John 3:16) It provides for mercy, but is the ransom also in harmony with Jehovah’s justice? Let us see. Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s sovereignty, which thing God knew was possible, for the reason that he had created these creatures as free moral agents to serve him. They did not serve out of compulsion but because of the qualities they had and their ability to appreciate and copy his qualities. Jehovah has material things, the planets, for example, that serve him to the most minute detail and just the way he wants; animals are governed by instinct, but intelligent creatures may take their own course. Nevertheless, if sin should come into the universe, God could not condone it and say, ‘I’ll just overlook it.’ Could he say to any sinning individual, ‘I want to show you mercy, so I’ll just forgive your sin’? No. In harmony with his justice and righteousness he could not ignore sin and let it go unaccounted for.
7 It is not that way, however, with the governments of earth today. They have condoned lawlessness, being slack and not zealous to act against it. The result has been that people lose faith in the governments and everything finally breaks down. The universal Lawgiver will not let that take place with his laws.
8. What is Jehovah’s position relative to sin and sinners?
8 Accordingly, God the universal Sovereign, in his responsibility to uphold law and order in the universe, does not overlook sin. “God is not one to be mocked.” (Gal. 6:7) In fact, at Habakkuk 1:13 the prophet says: “You are too pure in eyes to see what is bad; and to look on trouble you are not able. Why is it that you look on those dealing treacherously?” But, of course, for a time he allows wickedness because of the great issue. In Jehovah’s presence sinful things cannot exist. The seraphs in Isaiah’s vision are shown as saying: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of armies.” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8) “Holy” has the basic meaning of cleanness, both physically and morally, the triple repetition of it meaning cleanness in the superlative degree. There is no one in the universe so clean, in the highest possible degree, and therefore nothing that is sinful can possibly approach him directly.
A LEGAL PROBLEM
9. How only could God deal with sinners?
9 Consequently, in order to have dealings with those who were born in sin, though it was through no fault of their own, God had to have some legal basis on which to deal with them. (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12) He had to have someone, the one whose sacrifice would be the legal basis, through whom he could deal. He could not deal directly with sinful people because of his own dignity and righteousness. So he provided.
10. In making arrangements to deal with mankind, did Jehovah change his basic laws governing man?
10 In the meantime God let man continue to bring forth children. He stuck by his own stated purpose toward parents. He had commanded them to bring forth children. (Gen. 1:28) Since he now purposed to let mankind serve for the issue, he did not change his law or take away that privilege from the parents, nor did he interfere, but he let man go ahead and bring forth children in his own image, a now imperfect image. (Gen. 5:3) Parents were accorded the privilege of bringing up their children so that they could be what the parents trained them to be. (Prov. 22:6; 29:15) We see that principle in operation in the world today, and many are growing up as haters of God. But God permitted it. He respected his own laws that he made to govern mankind, and knew that they were right laws. He knew that some of the children born would serve for his side of the issue.—Job 1:8; 2:3.
‘SOUL FOR SOUL’
11. What was required to satisfy justice, and how was this demonstrated in God’s dealings with Israel?
11 God’s legal requirement of perfect justice is evident in his law to Israel: “Soul will be for soul, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deut. 19:21) God’s exactness in this matter was illustrated also in his dealing with Israel when he selected a tribe for temple service to him. The firstborn already belonged exclusively to Jehovah because he had saved them from being destroyed during the tenth plague upon Egypt. But now Jehovah wanted the tribe of Levi to serve at his sanctuary in exchange for the firstborn. However, a census revealed that there were 273 more of the Israelite firstborn than there were Levites. Therefore, to redeem these 273, the Israelites had to pay a ransom for each one. God was very strict in this transaction. (Num. 3:39-51) Also, if a person committed murder, no money or other ransom could be taken for the man; he had to die. He had to give soul for soul. (Num. 35:31-33) It is clear, therefore, that to redeem man from sin and death, the ransom price of a perfect human soul was required.
12. What was man’s situation as to providing relief?
12 Man’s helplessness is expressed in the forty-ninth Psalm 49, verses six to nine: “Those who are trusting in their means of maintenance, and who keep boasting about the abundance of their riches, 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.” The price was too precious, too high, beyond the reach of all mankind. As far as man’s ability was concerned, relief was so far away that it was to time indefinite, actually beyond hope.
JUSTICE, RIGHTEOUSNESS UPHELD
13. Was Jehovah as strict with himself as he was with Israel in the matter of the ransom? Explain.
13 So, if man was ever to be delivered, God had to act to make provision. Would he be as strict with himself as he was in his law to Israel? Would he uphold that law and stick to his stated principles? He did exactly that, even though it cost him the giving of his firstborn Son. (Rom. 5:6-8) What a wonderful quality! We can have full confidence in Jehovah because we know that he will never deviate in the least from his principles. He will never, by some whim, nor by force of circumstances, do anything unreasonable, or anything beyond the principles he reveals to us.—Mal. 3:6.
14. How was the ransom provision absolutely in harmony with justice and righteousness?
14 In this manner Jehovah was able to maintain completely his own righteousness, at the same time showing the extreme badness of sin. The apostle Paul expresses it: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and 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. God set him forth as an offering for propitiation through faith in his blood. This was in order to exhibit his own righteousness, because he was forgiving the sins that occurred in the past while God was exercising forbearance; so as to exhibit his own righteousness in this present season, that he might be righteous even when declaring righteous the man that has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:23-26) God therefore had a legal basis in harmony with his justice and righteousness, in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, when he dealt with Abraham and declared him righteous, as he did some 3,900 years ago, he could do it, rightly so, because He knew He was going to provide the ransom in the future. (Rom. 4:9) Abraham was not free from sin, though exercising faith. Jehovah, however, could deal with Abraham and still be completely clean and righteous in doing so, through this legal arrangement.
15. (a) Why was God’s Son sent to earth, and how was he born as a perfect human? (b) How do we know that he maintained integrity and gave a full and complete answer to the Devil’s slander?
15 Toward settlement of the issue, and to provide the ransom, the only-begotten Son of God was sent to earth, where the Devil could put pressure on his integrity. By miraculous birth through the virgin Mary he became a human son of God. This son was born of an imperfect woman, but himself perfect and unblemished. The angel Gabriel had announced to Mary: “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) The holy spirit put a wall of invisible power around Mary, so that nothing could harm this embryo as it was developing toward birth. Satan the Devil would have desired to destroy that Son before he was born, if possible. Jesus, throughout his human life, remained in that perfect state. He was “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Heb. 7:26) Jesus’ life course on earth settled the issue beyond question. He said, before his sacrificial death: “The ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me,” and, “Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 14:30; 12:31) These statements show that he had completely proved Satan a liar.
16. What will we realize better when we consider what Jesus suffered?
16 At this point we might say that it is really difficult for us to grasp how great Jesus was and is. In serving for the perfect settlement of the issue, Jesus suffered. All God’s servants have experienced terrible things at the hands of Satan and his agents. But Jesus endured greater suffering than any servant of God has ever undergone. How can we say this? In the answer to this question we can better realize the marvelous thing our Lord Jesus Christ did for us.
17. What did Jesus do, along with his disciples, on his last night on earth, before he was arrested?
17 Consider what occurred on his last night with his disciples. The account reads: “Then Jesus came with them to the spot called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples: ‘Sit down here while I go over there and pray.’ And taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he started to be grieved and to be sorely troubled. Then he said to them: ‘My soul is deeply grieved, even to death. Stay here and keep on the watch with me.’ And going a little way forward, he fell upon his face, praying and saying: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.’” Three times Jesus did this, and each time that he returned to his disciples they were asleep. He said to them: “Could you men not so much as watch one hour with me?” The disciples were dull of mind; they did not see the great issue that was focused on this night; so they could not remain awake.—Matt. 26:36-44.
18. By Jesus’ expression in prayer to Jehovah, was he asking that he might be spared from death?
18 When Jesus asked Jehovah, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me,” what did he mean? Was he saying that he was withdrawing, backing down from his decision to die and provide the ransom? No, for he had told his disciples right along that he was going to die. He explained that the chief priests and scribes would take him and he would be put to death and raised up by Jehovah on the third day. (Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22) Even the thought of avoiding the sacrificial death was repugnant to Jesus. (Matt. 16:21-23) The book of Hebrews shows that when he started on the sacrificial course at the time of his baptism he said: “You prepared a body for me,” that is, a perfect body as the ransom price. All along he was determined in that sacrificial course.—Heb. 10:5.
19, 20. (a) What did Jesus know he was facing, and what did he pray, if God should will it? (b) Why was the thing Jesus faced so hard for him?
19 No, Jesus did not appeal to his Father to be spared from death. But he knew that in a few hours he was going to be arrested and brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin. They were going to declare him guilty of blasphemy against God, the worst possible crime. (John 10:33; Matt. 26:65) Remember, he was the one who ‘loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.’ Here he had come down from heaven as the Son of God, to vindicate his Father, and first of all, his essential nature—his sonship—was denied by God’s own professed people. (John 19:7) But now, they were going to hang him upon a stake as the worst kind of person there could be—a blasphemer against God, as well as a seditionist. (Luke 23:2-4) What a defamation of God! He comes to vindicate his Father and exalt his name and here he is to be hung up as a curse and a blasphemer!
20 To have that charge as a blasphemer and to have God’s chosen nation responsible for that accusation—that was a terrible thing to Jesus Christ, for in the past he had been the one most zealous of all in the universe to please his Father, to uphold him, to avoid even the smallest thing that might reflect upon his Father. A blasphemer! Today, if a person is one of Jehovah’s servants, but turns away in apostasy and blasphemes God, he is detestable to all of God’s people. Jesus Christ, with his perfect mind, heart and understanding was far keener about this than we could be. Nevertheless, he said: “Yet, not as I will, but as you [Jehovah] will.”—Matt. 26:39.
21. What crushing weight was on Jesus’ shoulders that night?
21 Because of all these things, when he prayed his sweat became as drops of blood. (Luke 22:44) There was such a great weight on him; he had the burden of everything on his shoulders that night. He appealed to his Father and prayed “with strong outcries and tears.” (Heb. 5:7) He knew that he had to remain faithful, because, what if he failed? What a slap in the face to Jehovah that would have been! On the other hand, what a vindication of his Father and what a slap in the face of the Devil when Jesus remained faithful! Jehovah had such confidence in his Son’s loyalty that he had recorded in his Word, yes, Jehovah had said in advance, what Jesus would do. Jesus knew that. But Jesus also knew that the maintaining of integrity was on him; he could have failed; he could have sinned. All that was on Jesus’ shoulders. His eternal life and the life of the whole human race hung in the balance. That was a terrible strain.
22. Why did Jesus cry out as he did just before his death?
22 On the stake just before dying, he cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Ps. 22:1) The apostle Paul said to fellow Christians: “Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: ‘Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake.’” (Gal. 3:13) He had to become one accursed so as to release those under the Law. And Peter said: “He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake.”—1 Pet. 2:24.
23. What was it that Jesus did not have access to, that he provided for us?
23 Now, if we sin, we can repent and go to Jehovah God, praying to him and saying: ‘Jehovah God, I confess that I have sinned. On the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice I ask for forgiveness. Please forgive me.’ And we will receive God’s forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) But Jesus could not do that. He could not call for mercy ‘on the basis of (someone’s) sacrifice,’ if he weakened and made the least mistake. It was a crushing weight that he bore that night.
24. What does Romans 5:18 tell us about Jesus?
24 What thanks we can give to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ that Jesus did not fail! He served to answer the challenge fully. The apostle says: “So, then, as through one trespass the result to men of all sorts was condemnation, likewise also through one act of justification the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life.” (Rom. 5:18) This “one act of justification” was Jesus’ course of integrity, including his sacrifice. By this he was proved to be just. Of course, he was righteous all the way, but after this test, which he underwent successfully, God could still say: ‘You are completely just, righteous in every way.’
25. Compare Christ’s righteousness with that of those who exercise faith in him.
25 The apostle Paul further declared of Jesus: “He learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” (Heb. 5:8, 9) So it was in Christ’s own merit that God declared him righteous. He did not have to grant righteousness to Christ as a gift. That was why his sacrifice could serve as a basis for other men to be declared righteous. If others are declared righteous it is not on grounds of their own righteousness, but it is on the basis of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ; it is a gift to them.—Rom. 5:17.
26, 27. What did Jehovah do for Christ in expression of his love and appreciation?
26 The loving-kindness of Jehovah is magnified in all this, and in a further way also. Jesus knew he would be back in heaven with his Father. Jehovah’s love and appreciation were so great toward this one who vindicated his name under the severest of tests that he granted Jesus much more than he ever had. He gave Christ immortality and a position higher than ever before, far above the angels. (Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 7:26) And not only that, but Jesus also gained something else.
27 We know that the intelligent creatures of God are gregarious. They love to have associates. Here now Jesus was, except for Jehovah, in a class all by himself. But now, Jehovah in appreciation gave him a marvelous reward in addition, that is, a “bride.” (John 3:28, 29; Rev. 19:7; 21:9) Jesus called them, as individuals, “brothers.” (Heb. 2:11) They undergo the same experiences that Jesus had on earth. We most greatly enjoy association with and conversation with those who have undergone the same things, done the same work, had the same experiences, as we have, just as Jesus undoubtedly does with his “bride.” God gave Jesus this “bride” as evidence of his unfathomable richness and depth of appreciation and love toward his wonderful Son.
28, 29. How does Jesus Christ, on his part, demonstrate his loving-kindness and generosity?
28 Jesus Christ, on his part, also revealed his loving-kindness and generosity, and his love of righteousness, in that he was not selfish in this matter. He did not say: ‘I accomplished the vindication of God. Why should anyone else share with me in this glory?’ No, rather, he was glad, he was happy that he could have others who could share in that vindication and glorify God and who could also share his glory and power in the heavens. (Rom. 6:4, 5) He was glad that God had others on earth, where the Devil could persecute them, who nevertheless remained faithful to God’s sovereignty, loving it just as he did.
29 Then, there is the “great crowd” of the “other sheep.” Jesus Christ is glad to let them come in and have some small share also in that vindication. (Rev. 7:9, 10; John 10:16) So he assists all God’s “sheep” to stand firm for Jehovah’s sovereignty, despite what the Devil said.
THE “LAST ADAM”
30. How does Jesus Christ become the “last Adam”?
30 Because of Jesus’ faithful course and sacrifice he is able to save many. He had the power, when on earth, to have a family of his own by natural human means. He did not bring forth that family, but gave up that potential in his sacrifice. He therefore became the “last Adam.” Adam brought forth a family, an imperfect one, with bad traits. Jesus Christ brings forth a family that has righteousness. Individuals can transfer from the family of Adam and be regenerated through the righteousness of Jesus Christ and, according to God’s law of procreation, can come to be in his image. They can be cleaned up as sons of the “last Adam.”—1 Cor. 15:45.
31. By what means does Christ come to have “offspring”?
31 Isaiah, by inspiration, describes some of Christ’s sufferings and says: “If you will set his soul as a guilt offering, he will see his offspring.” (Isa. 53:10) When a person sets Christ’s soul, the ransom sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect human life, as a guilt offering for his sins, he becomes Christ’s “offspring.” Christ does not get offspring through the natural method, but as the “Eternal Father” he brings forth a family with his righteous traits, in the manner that the prophet Isaiah describes.—Isa. 9:6, 7.
RANSOM BENEFITS FLOWING NOW
32, 33. Have the benefits of the ransom yet been applied to any? Explain.
32 Viewing these things, someone may ask: ‘It has been 1,900 years since the ransom was given. Why do we not see persons receiving ransom benefits?’ We do. Immediately after the ransom price was presented in heaven, only fifty days after Christ’s resurrection, the holy spirit was poured out and men began to become sons of God. (Acts 2:1, 33) The apostle John says: “Now we are children of God.” (1 John 3:2) Such received benefits from the ransom and were spirit begotten, given the heavenly hope. Within the 1,900 years since then Jehovah has been selecting the ones that make up that group of 144,000 persons who will be kings and priests with Christ. (Rev. 14:1, 2; 5:9, 10; 20:6) Selecting and proving them has taken time, for they are the ones who will forever administer Jehovah’s sovereignty throughout the universe.
33 Today we see the fruitage of that sacrifice coming also to the “great crowd.” They are experiencing the fine benefits of peace with God, happiness, a hope and a purpose in life, a completely changed life, with an approach to Jehovah God and his blessing. They also have a happy, upbuilding work to do for Jehovah’s vindication. In the new order so near at hand they will attain to human perfection as sons of God.—Rom. 8:21.
RANSOM STRONGER THAN SIN
34. How is the ransom stronger than Adam’s sin?
34 Summing up the matter, we can say that the ransom is stronger than the sin of Adam. The sin of Adam brought everybody down. The ransom, of course, does not save every last human soul, but it is nevertheless stronger than the sin innate in us. How? Every last soul who wants to get free from sin and imperfection can get it wiped out and become wholly clean. Even those resurrected from the dead will have opportunity to avail themselves of the ransom. Those who do not get life will be persons who do not want Jehovah’s sovereignty. They do not love righteousness and hate lawlessness. They are self-condemned, adding their own willful sin to their inherited sin.—John 3:17-21.
35. How will all that Adam and Satan did be erased—brought to nothing?
35 Therefore, Christ’s ransom, administered by his Kingdom rule, completely wipes out what Adam did. The last enemy, death (the death brought to mankind by the sin of Adam), will be brought to nothing. When death is wiped out, then all that Adam did—all that he brought on the human race—will not be here at all. There will not be anything at all left to show for Adam’s sin. (1 Cor. 15:26, 56) And there will be nothing left to show for the sin of the Devil because, as the Bible says: “For this purpose the Son of God was made manifest, namely, to break up the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8) Satan will have completely wasted his effort and lost his life. The shadow on the name of Jehovah and his creation will be completely erased. God’s name will be fully vindicated to all eternity and those who want his sovereignty will be there, alive, to his praise.—Ps. 150.
36. After considering Jehovah’s ransom provision, what can we exclaim?
36 What loving-kindness of God! And what love on the part of our Lord Jesus Christ! We can say with the apostle: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!” (Rom. 11:33) Having a true appreciation of these things, we can exclaim, regardless of what things the world may bring to cause doubts and assail our faith, ‘Is not this enough to die for?’—Acts 20:24; 21:13.
See The New World (published in 1942), page 153, paragraph 1, to page 157, to the subheading “Test Applied.” Now out of print and out of stock.
See the book “Then Is Finished the Mystery of God,” published by Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1969, pp. 305-308.