A Ransom in Exchange for Many
ON MARCH 31, 1970, a jetliner was hijacked near Mount Fuji in Japan. Nine members of a group known as the Japanese Red Army Faction took more than 120 passengers and crew members as hostages and demanded a safe trip to North Korea.
When the plane landed in Seoul, Republic of Korea, Japanese vice-minister of transportation Shinjiro Yamamura volunteered to risk his life in behalf of the captives. Agreeing to accept him as a guarantee of their own safety, the hijackers released all the hostages except the flight personnel. They then flew to Pyongyang, where they surrendered to North Korean authorities. Mr. Yamamura and the pilot later returned to Japan unharmed.
In this case, one person served as an exchange for the lives of over 120 hostages. This may help us to see how one man could give his life as a ransom in exchange for many. But to understand the Bible’s doctrine of the ransom, we must examine this subject more thoroughly.
For one thing, we need to trace the origin of sin. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned,” explains the Bible. (Romans 5:12) How did that occur? The man there mentioned was Adam, the first human created. You can read the historical account of his creation and what led to his defection from God’s standard. This is set out in the first three chapters of the Bible book of Genesis.
That account reveals that there was an instigator behind the scenes when Adam first committed sin. To satisfy his own lust for power, that instigator schemed to dominate Adam and any offspring he might have. The instigator was Satan the Devil. He is also called “the original serpent” because he used a serpent in leading Adam to sin. (Revelation 12:9) Although mankind’s loving Creator had told Adam to respect His right to decide what is good and what is bad, the serpent lured Adam’s wife, Eve, into disobeying God. She then induced her husband to disobey. By that course, Adam declared independence from God, willfully became sinful, and could only pass that kind of life on to his offspring.
We are still suffering the consequences. How so? Well, the Creator had justly decreed that if Adam and Eve deliberately chose disobedience, the result would be death. By sinning, therefore, Adam sold all mankind into slavery to sin and death.—Genesis 2:17; 3:1-7.
How could humankind be redeemed from that sinful state? Jesus Christ came to the earth “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many,” and this opened the way to redeem mankind.—Matthew 20:28.
Covering and Releasing
The Bible shows that the process of redeeming mankind involved two steps: (1) buying back and (2) releasing. Regarding the Greek word (lyʹtron) translated “ransom,” Bible scholar Albert Barnes wrote: “The word ransom means literally a price paid for the redemption of captives. In war, when prisoners are taken by an enemy, the money demanded for their release is called a ransom; that is, it is the means by which they are set at liberty. So anything that releases anyone from a state of punishment, or suffering, or sin, is called a ransom.”
Yes, “anything that releases anyone” can be referred to as lyʹtron. So this Greek word highlights the act or process of releasing.*
The apostle Paul used the related word an·tiʹly·tron to emphasize the value of the price paid as the ransom. At 1 Timothy 2:6, he wrote that “[Jesus] gave himself” as “a corresponding ransom for all.” Commenting on this, Parkhurst’s Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament says: “It properly signifies a price by which captives are redeemed from the enemy; and that kind of exchange in which the life of one is redeemed by the life of another.” Stress here is on the corresponding nature or the efficacy of the ransom price paid in balancing the scales of justice. How could Jesus’ ransom sacrifice be deemed “a corresponding ransom”?
A Corresponding Ransom
Adam sold all of mankind, including us, into sin and death. The price, or penalty, he paid was his perfect human life, with the potential of living forever. To cover this, another perfect human life—a corresponding ransom—had to be paid. However, nobody born from imperfect men could provide the needed perfect human life. (Job 14:4; Psalm 51:5) In his wisdom, however, God opened up a way out of these straits. He transferred the perfect life of his only-begotten Son from the heavens to the womb of a virgin, letting him be born as a perfect man. (Luke 1:30-38; John 3:16-18) This teaching of Jesus’ virgin birth is not a story contrived to exalt the founder of a religion. Rather, it explains a logical step in God’s provision of the ransom.
In order to accomplish the redeeming, Jesus had to maintain a clean record all the time he was on the earth. This he did. Then he died a sacrificial death. In this way, Jesus paid the price of his perfect human life as the ransom to deliver mankind. (1 Peter 1:19) So we can accurately say that “one man died for all.” (2 Corinthians 5:14) Yes, “just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.”—1 Corinthians 15:22.
One Man in Exchange for Many
In the hijacking case mentioned earlier, the hostages had no way to liberate themselves, even if they were rich. Outside help was needed, and the man serving as an exchange had to satisfy certain conditions. The same is true in a far more profound way in connection with the ransom needed to redeem mankind. A psalmist wrote: “Those . . . 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).” (Psalm 49:6-8) Indeed, there was a need for outside help for mankind. The life of one man would be enough to redeem all mankind provided he satisfied the conditions required to balance God’s scales of justice. Jesus Christ has been the only perfect human to meet the qualifications.
Jehovah God has provided for the deliverance of mankind through the paying of the ransom by Jesus Christ. But God has done more. He has passed a death sentence on Satan the Devil, the one who led mankind into sin. (Revelation 12:7-9) Jehovah will soon confine that guilty one and will finally execute judgment by ‘hurling him into the lake of fire and sulphur,’ symbolizing eternal destruction. (Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10, 14) With the elimination of this wicked spirit creature and through the application of the ransom, mankind will enjoy deliverance not only from the grip of sin and death but also from the influence of Satan. Thus freed and with the merit of Christ’s ransom sacrifice applied to the full, obedient mankind will progress to human perfection.
The Ransom Arrangement and You
Upon learning about the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, many in the Orient have deeply appreciated what God has done for them. Kazuo is an example. His life was centered on inhaling and getting high on paint thinner. When driving under its influence, he repeatedly wrecked his cars. Three of his friends committed suicide after they had ruined their health. Kazuo too tried to commit suicide. Later, he began studying the Bible. Moved by the truth he learned, he decided to clean up his life. He struggled with his habit of abusing his body with paint thinner, and there were many setbacks. He was torn between his fleshly desire and a longing to do what is right. How happy he was to be able to pray to God for forgiveness through the merit of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ! Through prayer and with help from Christian friends, Kazuo overcame his vice and is now serving Jehovah as a happy minister with a clean conscience.
Do you recall Chisako, mentioned at the beginning of the preceding article? Through a study of the Bible, she also came to understand the loving arrangement of the ransom. She was deeply moved when she learned that God gave his Son to release mankind from sin. Chisako dedicated her life to Jehovah. Even now, at the age of 77, she spends some 90 hours every month telling others about Jehovah’s great love and the undeserved kindness that he shows.
The ransom should be important to you too. By means of it, God will open up the way to true freedom for mankind—freedom from sin and death. A grand future of eternal life on a paradise earth lies ahead for those who accept the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Please get in touch with Jehovah’s Witnesses and examine for yourself how you can enjoy freedom from sin and death through the loving ransom arrangement.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, pa·dhahʹ and related words are rendered “redeem” or “redemption price,” highlighting the releasing that was involved.—Deuteronomy 9:26.
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Courtesy of the Mainichi Shimbun