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Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Ransom and YOU

A price paid to buy back or to bring about release from some obligation or undesirable circumstance. The most significant ransom price is that of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. By paying over the value of that ransom in heaven, Jesus opened the way for Adam’s offspring to be delivered from the sin and death that we all inherit because of the sin of our forefather Adam.

How was the death of Jesus Christ different from that of others who have become martyrs?

Jesus was a perfect human. He was born without any blemish of sin and he maintained that perfection throughout his life. “He committed no sin.” He was “undefiled, separated from the sinners.”—1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 7:26.

He was the unique Son of God. God himself testified to this audibly from the heavens. (Matt. 3:17; 17:5) This Son had lived previously in heaven; through him God had brought into existence all other created persons and things in the entire universe. To carry out His will, God had miraculously transferred the life of this Son to the womb of a virgin girl so that he might be born as a human. To emphasize that he truly had become a human, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of man.—Col. 1:15-20; John 1:14; Luke 5:24.

He was not powerless before his executioners. He said: “I surrender my soul . . . No man has taken it away from me, but I surrender it of my own initiative.” (John 10:17, 18) He declined to appeal for angelic forces to intervene on his behalf. (Matt. 26:53, 54) Though wicked men were permitted to carry out their schemes in having him put to death, his death was truly sacrificial.

His shed blood has value to provide deliverance for others. “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mark 10:45) So his death was far more than a case of martyrdom because of refusal to compromise his beliefs.

Why was it necessary for the ransom to be provided in the manner that it was in order for us to have eternal life?

Rom. 5:12: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (No matter how uprightly we may live, all of us are sinners from birth. [Ps. 51:5] There is no way that we can earn the right to live forever.)

Rom. 6:23: “The wages sin pays is death.”

Ps. 49:6-9: “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.” (No imperfect human can provide the means to deliver someone else from sin and death. His money cannot buy eternal life, and his soul laid down in death, being the wages that are to come to him anyway because of sin, has no value toward delivering anyone.)

Why did God not simply decree that, although Adam and Eve must die for their rebellion, all of their offspring who would obey God could live forever?

Because Jehovah is “a lover of righteousness and justice.” (Ps. 33:5; Deut. 32:4; Jer. 9:24) So, the way he dealt with the situation upheld his righteousness, met the demands of absolute justice, and, at the same time, magnified his love and mercy. How is that so?

(1) Adam and Eve had produced no children before they sinned, so none were born perfect. All of Adam’s offspring were brought forth in sin, and sin leads to death. If Jehovah had simply ignored this, that would have been a denial of his own righteous standards. God could not do that and so become a party to unrighteousness. He did not sidestep the requirements of absolute justice; so no intelligent creature could ever legitimately find fault in this respect.—Rom. 3:21-26.

(2) Without ignoring the requirements of justice, how could provision be made to deliver those of Adam’s offspring who would demonstrate loving obedience to Jehovah? If a perfect human was to die sacrificially, justice could allow for that perfect life to provide a covering for the sins of those who would in faith accept the provision. Since one man’s sin (that of Adam) had been responsible for causing the entire human family to be sinners, the shed blood of another perfect human (in effect, a second Adam), being of corresponding value, could balance the scales of justice. Because Adam was a willful sinner, he could not benefit; but because the penalty that all mankind was due to pay for sin would in this way be paid by someone else, Adam’s offspring could be delivered. But there was no such perfect human. Humankind could never meet those demands of absolute justice. So, as an expression of marvelous love and at great personal cost, Jehovah himself made the provision. (1 Cor. 15:45; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; John 3:16; Rom. 5:8) God’s only-begotten Son was willing to do his part. Humbly leaving behind his heavenly glory and becoming a perfect human, Jesus died on behalf of mankind.—Phil. 2:7, 8.

Illustration: A family head may become a criminal and be sentenced to death. His children may be left destitute, hopelessly in debt. Perhaps their kindly grandfather intervenes on their behalf, making provision through a son who is living with him to pay their debts and to open up for them the possibility of a new life. Of course, to benefit, the children must accept the arrangement, and the grandfather may reasonably require certain things as assurance that the children will not imitate the course of their father.

To whom first was the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice applied, and with what objective?

Rom. 1:16: “The good news [regarding Jesus Christ and his role in Jehovah’s purpose] . . . is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (The invitation to benefit from the provision for salvation through Christ was extended first to the Jews, then to non-Jews.)

Eph. 1:11-14: “In union with [Christ] we [Jews, including the apostle Paul] were also assigned as heirs [Heirs of what? Of the heavenly Kingdom] . . . that we should serve for the praise of his glory, we who have been first to hope in the Christ. But you also [Christians taken out of the Gentile nations, as were many in Ephesus] hoped in him after you heard the word of truth, the good news about your salvation. By means of him also, after you believed, you were sealed with the promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of our inheritance, for the purpose of releasing by a ransom God’s own possession, to his glorious praise.” (That inheritance, as shown at 1 Peter 1:4, is reserved in the heavens. Revelation 14:1-4 indicates that those who share in it number 144,000. Along with Christ, these will serve as kings and priests over mankind for 1,000 years, during which God’s purpose for the earth to be a paradise populated by perfect offspring of the first human pair will be accomplished.)

Who else in our day are experiencing benefits from Jesus’ sacrifice?

1 John 2:2: “He [Jesus Christ] is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins [those of the apostle John and other spirit-anointed Christians], yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s [others of mankind, those for whom the prospect of eternal life on earth is thus made possible].”

John 10:16: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (These “other sheep” come under the loving care of Jesus Christ while the remnant of the “little flock” of Kingdom heirs is still on earth; thus the “other sheep” can be associated with the Kingdom heirs as part of the “one flock.” They all enjoy many of the same benefits from Jesus’ sacrifice, but not identically so, because they have different destinies.)

Rev. 7:9, 14: “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues . . . ‘These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” (So, the members of this great crowd are living when the great tribulation begins, and they have a clean standing before God because they exercise faith in the ransom. The righteousness counted to them as a result of this is sufficient for them to be preserved alive on earth through the great tribulation.)

What future blessings will be enjoyed as a result of the ransom?

Rev. 5:9, 10: “They sing a new song, saying: ‘You [the Lamb, Jesus Christ] are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.’” (The ransom was a vital factor in opening the way to heavenly life for those who are to rule with Christ. Soon all the rulers in earth’s new government will be on their heavenly thrones.)

Rev. 7:9, 10: “Look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb [Jesus Christ, who died as if a sacrificial lamb], dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Faith in Christ’s sacrifice is a key factor in the survival of this great crowd through the great tribulation.)

Rev. 22:1, 2: “And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” (Thus, application of the value of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is an important part of the provision made by God to cure mankind of all the effects of sin and to enable them to enjoy eternal life.)

Rom. 8:21: “The creation itself [mankind] also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

What is required of us in order to benefit lastingly from Jesus’ perfect sacrifice?

John 3:36: “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.”

Heb. 5:9: “After he [Jesus Christ] had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.”

What does the provision of the ransom reveal as to how God feels about mankind?

1 John 4:9, 10: “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.”

Rom. 5:7, 8: “Hardly will anyone die for a righteous man; indeed, for the good man, perhaps, someone even dares to die. But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

What effect should this provision have on how we use our lives?

1 Pet. 2:24: “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.” (In view of all that Jehovah and his Son have done to cleanse us from sin, we should strive diligently to overcome sinful tendencies. It should be completely unthinkable for us deliberately to do anything that we know is sinful!)

Titus 2:13, 14: “Christ Jesus . . . gave himself for us that he might deliver us from every sort of lawlessness and cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.” (Appreciation for this marvelous provision should move us to have a zealous share in those works that Christ assigned to his true followers.)

2 Cor. 5:14, 15: “The love the Christ has compels us, because this is what we have judged, that one man died for all; so, then, all had died; and he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.”

Memorial (Lord’s Evening Meal)

Definition: A meal commemorating the death of Jesus Christ; hence, a memorial of his death, the death that has had effects that are more far reaching than that of any other person. This is the only event that the Lord Jesus Christ commanded his disciples to memorialize. It is also known as the Lord’s Supper, or the Lord’s Evening Meal.—1 Cor. 11:20.

What is the significance of the Memorial?

To his faithful apostles Jesus said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) When writing to members of the spirit-begotten Christian congregation, the apostle Paul added: “As often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.” (1 Cor. 11:26) So, the Memorial calls special attention to the significance of the death of Jesus Christ in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. It highlights the meaning of Jesus’ sacrificial death particularly in relation to the new covenant and to the way that his death affects those who will be heirs with him of the heavenly Kingdom.—John 14:2, 3; Heb. 9:15.

The Memorial is also a reminder that Jesus’ death and the way it was accomplished, in harmony with God’s purpose as expressed at Genesis 3:15 and thereafter, served to vindicate Jehovah’s name. By maintaining integrity to Jehovah down till his death, Jesus proved that Adam’s sin was not due to any flaw in the Creator’s designing of man but that it is possible for a human to maintain perfect godly devotion even under severe pressure, and thus Jesus vindicated Jehovah God as Creator and Universal Sovereign. Besides that, Jehovah had purposed that Jesus’ death would provide the perfect human sacrifice needed to ransom Adam’s offspring, and thus make it possible for billions who would exercise faith to live forever in a paradise earth, in fulfillment of Jehovah’s original purpose and in expression of his great love for mankind.—John 3:16; Gen. 1:28.

What a tremendous burden rested upon Jesus on his last night on earth as a man! He knew what his heavenly Father had purposed for him, but he also knew that he had to prove faithful under test. Had he failed, what a reproach it would have meant for his Father and what a loss to humankind! Because of all that would be accomplished by means of his death, it was most fitting that Jesus instructed that it be memorialized.

What is the meaning of the bread and the wine served at the Memorial?

Regarding the unleavened bread that Jesus gave to his apostles when instituting the Memorial, he said: “This means my body.” (Mark 14:22) That bread symbolized his own sinless body of flesh. This he would give in behalf of the future life prospects of mankind, and on this occasion special attention is drawn to the life prospects that it makes possible for those who would be chosen to share with Jesus in the heavenly Kingdom.

When passing the wine to his faithful apostles, Jesus said: “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many.” (Mark 14:24) That wine symbolized his own lifeblood. By means of his shed blood, forgiveness of sins would be possible for those who put faith in it. On this occasion Jesus was highlighting the cleansing from sin that it would make possible for his prospective joint heirs. His words also indicate that by means of that blood the new covenant between Jehovah God and the spirit-anointed Christian congregation would be made operative.

Who is to partake of the bread and the wine?

Who partook when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal shortly before he died? Eleven faithful followers to whom Jesus said: “I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (Luke 22:29) They were all persons who were being invited to share with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. (John 14:2, 3) All who partake of the bread and wine today should also be persons whom Christ brings into that ‘covenant for a kingdom.’

How many are there that partake? Jesus said that only a “little flock” would receive the heavenly Kingdom as their reward. (Luke 12:32) The full number would be 144,000. (Rev. 14:1-3) That group began to be selected in 33 C.E. Reasonably, there would be only a small number partaking now.

Does John 6:53, 54 indicate that only those who do partake will gain everlasting life?

John 6:53, 54: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day.’”

This eating and drinking would obviously have to be done figuratively; otherwise the one doing it would be violating God’s law. (Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:28, 29) However, it should be noted that Jesus’ statement at John 6:53, 54 was not made in connection with the inauguration of the Lord’s Evening Meal. None who heard him had any idea of a celebration with bread and wine used to represent Christ’s flesh and blood. That arrangement was not introduced until about a year later, and the apostle John’s report about the Lord’s Evening Meal does not begin until more than seven chapters later on (in John 14) in the Gospel bearing his name.

How, then, can a person “eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood” in a figurative way if not by partaking of the bread and the wine at the Memorial? Notice that Jesus said that those thus eating and drinking would have “everlasting life.” Earlier, in verse 40, when explaining what people must do to have everlasting life, what did he say was the will of his Father? That “everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life.” Reasonably, then, ‘eating his flesh and drinking his blood’ in a figurative sense is done by exercising faith in the redeeming power of Jesus’ flesh and blood laid down in sacrifice. This exercising of faith is required of all who will gain the fullness of life, whether in the heavens with Christ or in the earthly Paradise.

How often is the Memorial to be commemorated, and when?

Jesus did not specifically state how often it was to be done. He simply said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Paul said: “For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.” (1 Cor. 11:26) “As often” need not mean many times a year; it can mean annually over a period of many years. If you commemorate an important event, such as a wedding anniversary, or if a nation commemorates an important event in its history, how often is it done? Once a year on the anniversary date. This would also be consistent with the fact that the Lord’s Evening Meal was instituted on the date of the Jewish Passover, a yearly celebration that no longer had to be kept by Jews who had become Christians.

Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Memorial after sundown on Nisan 14, according to the reckoning of the Jewish calendar that was common in the first century. The Jewish day begins at sundown and extends until the following sundown. So Jesus died on the same Jewish calendar day that he instituted the Memorial. The beginning of the month of Nisan was the sunset after the new moon nearest the spring equinox became visible in Jerusalem. The Memorial date is 14 days thereafter. (Thus the date for the Memorial may not coincide with that of the Passover kept by modern-day Jews. Why not? The start of their calendar months is set to coincide with the astronomical new moon, not the visible new moon over Jerusalem, which may come 18 to 30 hours later. Also, most Jews today keep the Passover on Nisan 15, not on the 14th as did Jesus in harmony with what was stated in the Mosaic Law.)

- Reasoning from the Scriptures, published by the WTB&TS

Additional Reading:

The Bible Students teach the false view that Jehovah's Witnesses deny the Ransom. In reality Jehovah's Witnesses do not deny the Ransom, we just reject the Bible Students understanding of it. The Bible Students teach that Jesus died "For" Adam, this would then cause a chain reaction that would free "All" of mankind. However the Bible states that Jesus died for us as individuals. The Jehovah's Witnesses love Jesus, and yet many Bible Students hate us. The Jews reject Jesus and these same Bible Students love them. Funny how that works.