The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
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Themes Archive

 
A Ransom in Exchange for Many
 
    One of the vital doctrines clearly taught throughout the Bible is that of the ransom which God provided through Jesus Christ for men who love God and have faith in him. For instance, Jesus' words at Matthew 20:28: "The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many." Jesus made other statements to the same effect, and so did his apostles. The prophets before Jesus' time wrote concerning this very important and loving provision of God which results in blessing for men, the ransom. It is one of the basic truths of God's Word.
    This word ransom means that which loosens or releases, providing deliverance. In the Bible the word often has reference to deliverance from trouble, distress or calamity. An instance of this is found in Isaiah 43:3, which reads: "I am Jehovah thy God, ... I have given Egypt as thy ransom." God gave Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba as a reward or ransom to the Persian conqueror of Babylon for the release of His people from Babylon. (Compare Ezekiel 29:17-20; Esther 1:1-3.) Used in this latter way, ransom is plainly not a ransom or deliverance from sin or from death due to sin.
    The "ransom in exchange for many" mentioned by Jesus at Matthew 20:28 denotes a deliverance or saving too. Psalm 49:6,7 states: "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." This scripture agrees with others in pointing out that the "ransom" is a redemption accomplished, not by wealth or ability of man, but by a provision of God. The Scriptural doctrine of the ransom is that in sending his Son Christ Jesus to earth Jehovah God provided through him and his death a redemptive price. Thereby those of men who have faith in God's provision may come into harmony with him and, serving him faithfully, they may receive the gift of life, being freed from inherited sin and from eternal death as a result of sin. To this effect it is written, at Romans 6:23: "The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord."
    The ransoming is the action God performs in accomplishing this redemption of mankind through Christ. The ransom itself is that which serves as the redemptive price, the valuable thing with which the repurchase or redemption is made, namely, "the man Christ Jesus."
    Man's need of a ransom is shown in the fact that all men are born imperfect and sinful, as admitted by even godly David, who stated: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5) If sinful men are to receive everlasting life, then deliverance from this condemnation of sin and death must come, and this from the Creator, as man was and is helpless in this respect. Also, it is part of Jehovah's expressed purpose that men should receive everlasting life, as Jesus Christ stated it, at John 17:3: "This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ." To accomplish this purpose of giving life to men a purchase price or redemptive price, or ransom, is needed.
    That which is bought with the ransom price is identified in Jehovah God's statement to perfect Adam concerning what was to be lost by sin and disobedience: "Thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:17) That which was lost was perfect human life, with its rights and earthly prospects. That which is redeemed or bought back is what was lost, namely, perfect human life, with its rights and earthly prospects. God's just law, at Deuteronomy 19:21, was that like should go for like, hence a perfect human life sacrificed for a perfect human life lost. Who could provide the necessary ransom?
    The provider of the ransom is Jehovah God, the Source of life, the Creator. Jesus, his only-begotten Son, said: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, . . . God sent forth his Son into the world." (John 3:16,17) Justice was satisfied in mankind's suffering death, the just penalty of sin. So the ransom is an expression of God's mercy, his undeserved kindness toward mankind. What good and valuable thing could there be which God was pleased to use to ransom those appreciating his loving-kindness?
    It was his beloved Son. We read, at 1 Timothy 2:5, 6: "A man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom." Concerning his birth as a man the account at Matthew 1:22,23 tells us: "All this actually came about for that to be fulfilled which was spoken by Jehovah through his prophet, saying, 'Look! the virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and they will call his name "Immanuel".'" That this one is the ransom or deliverer from sin and death, Jehovah's angel said, in verse 21: "He will save his people from their sins." Concerning him, too, the apostle Peter explained, at Acts 4:12: "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." Of all God's faithful creatures in heaven, it pleased him to use this One most dear to him, sending him to earth to become a perfect man, so carrying forward among other things the ransoming work. Hebrews 2:9 states: "We behold Jesus, who has been made a little lower than angels, crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, that he by God's undeserved kindness might taste death for every man." How true, then, the glad cry of John the Baptist upon seeing this One ap proaching: "See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!"- John 1:29.
    The perfect human life which Jesus laid down in death is that valuable thing which accomplishes the purchase of what Adam's sin of disobedience lost for all his offspring. Jesus' blood spilled in death, his human life poured out in willing sacrifice, this is what the ransom is. It was provided here upon earth at Jesus' death. It was presented in heaven as a redemptive offering for sin by the resurrected and glorified Christ, for he was resurrected a spirit creature, immortal, no longer a human son of God. His perfect human life, with all its rights and prospects, was laid down in death, but not for sin and in punishment. It was not taken back by Jesus at his resurrection, for he was raised a divine spirit creature. After the heavenly Father gave to his faithful Son the reward of immortal spirit life, the sacrificed human life remained effective, a thing of value with purchasing power, hence with ransoming or redemptive power. The value of the perfect human life was now available for use on behalf of faithful men needing to be ransomed thereby. These wonderful truths are made clear at Hebrews 9:24-26, as follows:
    "Christ entered, not into a holy place made with hands which is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us. 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 world's foundation. But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the consummation of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself."
    We see that by sin Adam lost perfect human life and was justly sentenced to death and eventually died, and all his descendants inherited sin and death from him. God made his beloved Son a perfect man, and Jesus was faithful, went into death, and was afterward resurrected by God's power and exalted to heaven, there presenting to God the merit or value of his perfect human life. But how does this operate on behalf of faithful men? How does this ransom "many"? Good questions these, and they deserve a Bible answer.
    Luke 3:38 names Adam "the son of God". As the human son of God, Adam was perfect, for Jehovah God created him, and "his work is perfect". (Deuteronomy 32:4) Adam was not made to be obedient to God automatically, as a robot. No, but he could choose to obey his Maker and enjoy the blessings of the life which he had been given, or he could willfully disobey and lose his life and all right to life. So, even though he was perfect, his faithfulness was subject to test. When he sinned, Adam ceased to be God's son, but was a deliberate sinner. "Adam was not deceived." (1 Timothy 2:14) And so the sentence of death for sin willfully chosen was passed upon Adam, and in due time he died. All his children, we and our ancestors, were born following his sin.
    Adam's imperfect descendants could choose to serve God to the best of their abilities, or could choose to harden their hearts against his goodness during their few years of life. To imperfect Israelites Joshua said: "Choose you this day whom ye will serve; ... as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah." (Joshua 24:15) But even those who set their minds and hearts to the worship of the true God were powerless to gain eternal life for themselves without God's action in their behalf. Romans 5:12 shows why: "Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.".
    As a perfect man, Jesus stood in a position like that once occupied by the perfect man Adam in the garden of Eden. At Hebrews 5:8, 9 it is said concerning Jesus: "Although he was a Son, 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." By a faultless obedience the perfection, not merely of human organism, but of devotion to his Father, was proved by Jesus. For this he was exalted and made the great High Priest to enter into "heaven itself" and offer the value of his perfect human sacrifice on behalf of "all those obeying him". In contrast with Adam's bringing of death upon all mankind through transgression of God's law, Jesus as the glorified High Priest, by presenting in heaven this redemptive price, is in position to relieve the believing ones of Adam's descendants from the inherited disability under which all are born. By his purchase he buys them, redeems them from sin and from death, applying the merit of his sacrifice on their behalf, that they may have a righteous standing before the Father through the Son. - 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23.

    WHO IS RANSOMED?

    The man Adam is not included in those ransomed. Why not? Because he was a willful sinner, was justly sentenced to death, and died deservedly, and God would not reverse his just judgment and give Adam life. He had perfect life, and this he deliberately forfeited. There is no provision in God's ransom for Adam. But in contrast with what Adam did to his big family born after him, Jesus Christ ransoms believing men with a corresponding ransom. He offsets the inherited condemnation on those "many" believers of Adam's family by applying in their behalf the merit of this redemptive price, and such are the ransomed ones. - Matthew 20:28.
    Would this take in non-Jews as well as Jews? Yes, because Romans 5:18 states: "Likewise also through one act of justification the result to men of all kinds is a declaring of them righteous for life." Galatians 3:13 shows the Jews that "Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law"; and Romans 4:11 speaks of the Gen tiles who exercise faith as "those having faith while in uncircumcision, in order for righteousness to be counted to them". So the course of an individual determines whether he will ultimately receive benefit from the ransom sacrifice of Christ or not. Those willfully wicked and hardhearted toward Jehovah's provision do not have ransom merit and life forced upon them, but, as stated at 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."
    "Thus is shown the impartiality of Jehovah, the great Ransomer. The basis for the resurrection of the dead who are in God's memory and their eventual gaining of life is this same ransom pro-vision. Jesus gave the "corresponding ransom for all", all who enter into the covenant with God through Jesus as Mediator. "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 Timothy 2:5, 6.
    The ransom places upon those who want to benefit from it an obligation and a marvelous privilege. "The sting producing death is sin." (1 Corinthians 15:56) So in order for men to be saved from death due to being stung by sin they must inform themselves of God's mercy through Christ Jesus and then have faith in the provision He has made. This faith means to rely on such provision confidently, to give God all credit for it, and then to demonstrate this conviction by devoting oneself to God and by informing others about the ransom. Such course of action by those of good will identifies them as being of those "many" for whom Christ died, including the "great crowd" described in Revelation 7:14, which says of them: "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.".
    Faith is based on reliable evidence. The Word of the Most High God is the dependable basis for faith. His Word makes plain the ransom provision and so makes possible faith in the redemptive price provided by Jesus. Those people of good will today who avail themselves of the provision and who steadfastly abide in this confidence will find Christ Jesus to be their "everlasting Father". (Isaiah 9:6) Their eternal life on earth under God's kingdom will be to the praise of the only true God, Jehovah, whose purpose in Christ Jesus is stated by this beloved Son, at Mark 10:45: "For even the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many."