The World’s Trouble: Chapter 13

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
– Hebrews 9:27

Chapter 13

On April 4, 2010, a 300,000 ton oil tanker carrying crude oil, worth $170 million, from Iraq en route to Louisiana was hijacked in the Indian Ocean about 690 miles north of the Somali coast. Somali pirates held the tanker and the 24 crewmen hostage for 217 days while release terms were negotiated. The pirates initially demanded $20 million for the release, but settled for about $9 million. On November 6, 2010, the tanker and crew were released after the payment had been airdropped. The cargo and crew were intact and unharmed.

Five South Koreans and 19 Filipinos were captive for about seven months. The price, or the cost, of their freedom was about $9 million. We typically refer to that price as the ransom. If we talk about a ransom today, we usually think of it as the price paid to release hostages or prisoners of war. In books and movies we are used to phrases such as, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists, hijackers, kidnappers, etc.” The reality is quite different and sometimes such ransoms are paid.

The ransom of hostages is an example of an illegal cause of ransom and one where we typically view the victims as innocents being used as pawns. Biblical law speaks of other types of legal ransom. In the Bible, the ransom is a redemption price that is paid in order to free a captive slave or to deliver a convicted lawbreaker from a stricter penalty of sin. In some capital cases it was possible to ransom the guilty from the death penalty (Exodus 21:30). The ransom applied to various situations in the Old Testament, but the common link is that ransom refers to the redemption price that is paid.

Romans 6:23 states, “the wages of sin is death.” Our sins have broken God’s law and received a death sentence penalty. We live and breathe with condemnation over us (John 3:36). Further, we live in what Jesus described as slavery to sin. “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). We are born into bondage to sin and owe a debt we must pay with our lives in death.

God has provided for release from bondage and canceling the condemnation against us. The terms are non-negotiable. The price of redemption could only be paid in one way and only one price was acceptable.

The Old Testament law taught the necessity of a blood sacrifice to forgive sins, “and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). The Old Testament law had a system of offerings and sacrifices for the purging of sins. But, the writer of Hebrews recognized that system was only a shadow of what was to come (Hebrews 10:1-4). The repetitive cycle of sacrifices for sins required by the law shows that those same sacrifices didn’t actually pay for sins. The blood of animals is insufficient to pay for the sins of people (Hebrews 10:4).

If we are talking about our own bank accounts, $9 million is a lot of money, and maybe more than most of us can imagine. If we are talking about the wealth of a nation or the wealth of the entire world, it is a trifling amount. If we piled up the wealth of the world to pay the ransom for our soul, it would not be enough.

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: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption.
– Psalm 49:6-10

The psalmist wrote of the fact that riches cannot ransom a soul from the grave. Many have confidence in their riches (Psalm 49:11), but fail to understand that death is a boundary their money cannot cross (Psalm 49:17). They will live in luxury, but die just like a beast in the field. This is the ultimate foolishness (Psalm 49:12-14). The psalmist would point us to true wisdom that is hope in God who “will redeem my soul from the power of the grave” (Psalm 49:15).

So what is the acceptable ransom price and to whom is it paid? The writer of Hebrews showed the blood of animals was not enough, but he also wrote that blood was the “shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). The price is blood, but not that of animals. The only blood price accepted is the blood of the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-14). Jesus testified before his death, he had come “to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Peter later wrote of redemption that it did not come through things like “silver and gold,” but “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The cost of redemption was the blood of the sinless Son of God.

We are left with the question: Who received the ransom payment? Some think Satan had to paid. Satan, or the Devil, and his army of pirate demons do participate in the captivity of human beings. He roams freely throughout the world, terrorizing and deceiving the nations to enslave them and blind them to the glorious freedom in Jesus Christ through his blood (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:26).

God does not negotiate with terrorist hijackers. Jesus Christ came to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan was not paid. He will be judged (Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10).

It is not Satan’s wrath we most need delivered from. We need delivered from the wrath of God who can condemn us eternally to the lake of fire (Matthew 10:28; Romans 2:2; Revelation 14:7). It is God we have sinned against and fallen short of his glory (Romans 3:23). Christ paid the ransom price of his own blood for the redemption of all who believe in him to God (Ephesians 5:1; Hebrews 9:14). Jesus testified that he willingly paid this price (John 10:18).

217 days is a long time to be every moment in danger of dying, hoping the hijackers demands will be met. A swat team might be sent to free the captives, but some could also die in the crossfire. Instead, $9 million was airdropped and the ship was on its way with all on board accounted for. We are born into sin and captivity. We live every moment of our lives under condemnation and in danger of dying in that condemnation, which puts us into eternal punishment for our sins. Eternity is infinitely longer than 217 days without any hope or possibility of deliverance. All our money, or all the money in the world, cannot save us. The price is infinitely higher than that, but Jesus Christ came into the world and died to pay that price no one else could. Our redemption is secured through faith in him apart from any contribution of our own.

This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.

The World’s Trouble: Chapter 12

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
– Hebrews 9:27

Chapter 12

Chapter 4 began with a brief statement of the case of Adolf Eichmann. He was executed by hanging on June 1, 1962 for the murder of millions of Jews more than twenty years prior. Eichmann was Hilter’s lieutenant and recognized architect of “The Final Solution,” which was a plan to rid Europe of all Jews. In chapter 4 we were primarily concerned with the consequences of sin and how a day of reckoning is coming for us, just as it did for Eichmann, and will come in the future before God in final judgment. Let’s think about Eichmann’s case from a different perspective for a few moments.

Eichmann’s life was taken by the state of Israel for crimes perpetrated against Jewish people. He was responsible for the torture and death of millions of Jews and so his life was forfeit. Few would argue that his death was unjust. He deserved death for what he had done, but was his death equitable? He was responsible in the deaths of millions and he could only die once. Of course, capital punishment is the strongest sentence a human court can give, so there was nothing more that could be done to him. However, did his death really pay the debt he amassed in Jewish blood? Though perhaps there was satisfaction that justice had been done, were the surviving families in any way repaid or restored what they had suffered and lost? Did Eichmann’s death replace the life of even one Jew? No, it did not.

God’s law teaches that righteousness requires payments and restitution of damages that are equitable. These payments represent a sort of exchange designed to set things to rights once again. If one man stole from another, he had to replace what he stole, or pay the fair value of it in money, plus extra. Of course, with God’s law, capital punishment was the highest punishment that could be given. Life for life and blood for blood. All human laws should be just in this way in order to be just at all. But, human laws are limited and all such repayments and restitutions are limited.

Let’s illustrate the limitations. Say you have a car and sell it to someone else. This is an exchange and it can be equitable. You sell the car and the buyer purchases the car by giving you a fair market value for the car in cash. An exchange has taken place that was just and equitable, and everyone is satisfied. Let’s now suppose a different exchange. Say you are driving on the road and an oncoming car is driven by a drunk driver who runs into you. Your car is totaled and you are injured, becoming a quadriplegic and spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair. Charges are filed against the drunk driver. He loses his license and goes to jail. You are awarded damages, receiving millions of dollars. An exchange has taken place to the fullest extent of the law, yet even if your award was billions of dollars and his penalty execution, are you really restored? Has he made a payment that truly satisfies the damage that was done? No he hasn’t and he cannot. A debt has incurred that cannot be repaid with any amount of money or blood.

When we sin, we incur debt against God. God’s wrath is holy and righteous, and is revealed against all sin. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Paul proceeds in the next couple of chapters in Romans to show that all men are sinners and all men are under the just wrath of God. This is the same whether they are Jews trying to keep God’s law or Gentiles living without God’s law (Romans 2:1-3:20). Sin brings the wrath of God that culminates in eternal damnation (Romans 6:23; John 3:36). Our offense against God is so great that nothing short of the full measure of his wrath can satisfy it.

Paul has explained this in the first three chapters of Romans and also explained that keeping the Old Testament law, even if that were possible, is not sufficient to satisfy God’s wrath. How can God’s wrath be satisfied? There is only one answer to that question. Near the end of chapter 3, Paul explains how God’s wrath is satisfied.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
– Romans 3:24-26

Notice the word propitiation. The word is not commonly used today. It comes from a Latin word meaning “made favorable.” The word coveys the idea of appeasing wrath and restoring favor. Let’s follow Paul’s argument. Justified means to be declared righteous, or declared not guilty. Paul writes a man is “justified by faith” (Romans 3:28), and justification is “freely by his [God’s] grace” (Romans 3:24, clarification added). Paul means that a man cannot earn justification. He has earned the wrath of God, but he has no means to satisfy that wrath and be reconciled to God’s favor.

Paul further explains that justification is “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). The word for redemption means a ransom payment. One illustration of this word would be the paying of the ransom to free a slave. If a man was enslaved without any means of obtaining freedom and another would come along and pay for his freedom, that price paid was the ransom price, or the redemption. Paul specifies the ransom price paid for justification is “his blood” (Romans 3:25), meaning the blood shed by Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for sins. His blood is sufficient to purchase the “remission of sins” (Romans 3:25). In legal terms, remission means the cancelling of a debt or charge against someone. The blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to pay our sin debt in full, and therefore appease the wrath of God against us and reconcile us to God’s favor. In other words, his death is a propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2).

I have used some examples of sinners, such as Adolf Eichmann and Osama Bin Laden, because their crimes are on such a large scale it’s easy for us to think of them as guilty and deserving punishment. Even if you’re convinced they deserved to pay for their crimes, do you think their deaths were a sufficient payment? We are limited. After we have executed a high criminal, there’s nothing else we can do. One man’s life hardly seems an adequate payment for the deaths of thousands and even millions. Yet, the Bible teaches we are no less guilty than Eichmann and our blood is no more sufficient than his to pay for our sins against God. This is why we need an atonement that propitiates God’s wrath against us. Eichmann’s death is not the end. He will face God in judgment one day and will pay the price for his sin for all eternity along with everyone whose sins are not covered by Jesus’ blood (Revelation 20:11-15).

This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.

The World’s Trouble: Chapter 11

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: - Hebrews 9:27

And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
– Hebrews 9:27

Chapter 11

Many efforts have been made to distill Christianity to its irreducible essence. Can we find the one or two things to point to that are essential? Of course, there has been no consensus on the conclusions of such searches. I can’t speak for everyone’s motives who have taken up the task, but I am suspicious of the effort. No one has a moist and beautifully iced piece of cake set before them and wants to know the one essential ingredient and just have that instead of the whole piece. The whole piece has many ingredients that have been mixed together, baked, cooled, and iced. To speak of the essence of the cake is to make no sense, for it all put together and on the plate is the point. Just as there is no getting the spilt milk back in the jug, there is no breaking down the baked cake and just getting the salt out. It all hangs together.

So, when I speak of breaking down the atonement into four parts and considering them, I’m not making an effort at finding irreducible essence. I’m not making a case for any one of the parts standing alone. In keeping with the confectionary analogy, I’m not trying to get the salt out of the baked cake but rather trying to explain the part the salt plays, or the reason it’s mixed in to begin with. I don’t know why I’m talking about cake so much. Perhaps I’m hungry. Nevertheless, I better leave off this analogy because I don’t know what part salt plays in baking a cake and am frankly surprised that it’s an ingredient at all in something that is supposed to be sweet.

At the heart of salvation is the truth of substitution, by which I mean the voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the place of the sinner. Though it is a hard truth, it is also a beautiful truth. Various cultures throughout history have recognized the beauty of sacrifice—one laying down his life for another. Oral and literature traditions celebrate it as noble. Not all see it this way. Well known atheist and writer, the late Christopher Hitchens, used to denounce what he called “vicarious redemption” as immoral and evil 1. He had an uphill battle to convince people that the concept of sacrifice for another was ugly as an immoral evil and his charge petered out before he made the first bench.

The early teaching of the law in Scripture was the necessity of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. The author of Hebrews emphasized this when he wrote, “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). He pointed out the necessity of sacrifice, such that without it there is no remission or forgiveness. The law identified different kinds of sins and the sacrifices that had to be made for them.

And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing; And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD for his sin which he hath sinned, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin.
– Leviticus 5:5-6

And the priest shall make an atonement for him as touching his sin that he hath sinned in one of these, and it shall be forgiven him: and the remnant shall be the priest’s, as a meat offering.
– Leviticus 5:13

The Levitical system was a repetitive system of sacrifice with all the regular sacrifices and the Day of Atonement sacrifices, which were repeated annually. The author of Hebrews pointed out that the Levitical system made a remembrance of sins and did not do away with sins since the sacrifices had to be continually repeated.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
– Hebrews 10:1-4

He went to say that if sins were actually forgiven by these substitutionary sacrifices, then there would be no more need of sacrifices (Hebrews 10:18). The blood of bulls and goats was not an acceptable substitution for men and women. Therefore, the law shows the need for a better substitute and a better sacrifice.

The prophets foretold of the coming Messiah who is the perfect substitute and who would make the perfect substitutionary sacrifice. Isaiah wrote of him as being the one who could bear sins in the place of people to secure actual forgiveness of sins and the blessing of the new covenant that sins are done away completely and remembered “no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
– Isaiah 53:3-11

Jesus made clear he was the promised Messiah and substitute for sinners. He said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He went to say more explicitly, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). All those whom Jesus laid down his life for will have “eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:28). He is the perfect substitute and only needed to make one sacrifice to secure eternal salvation (Hebrews 10:12, 14).

The substitution of Jesus Christ in the place of sinners is at the heart of the Gospel. Paul wrote, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Paul further explained this substitution, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). There is no greater news than that there is a Savior who is able to take our place by bearing our sins and satisfying the wrath God that through believing in him we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God (Colossians 1:14; John 3:36).

This is a portion of a book that I have been writing. I have decided to post it here in serial form. It is intended to be evangelistic. If the book has merit, I may seek to publish it in some form. Please feel free to share it and I welcome any feedback.

If you wish to read all the chapters in order you may do so here.

Notes:

  1. Hitchens, C. & Wilson, D., Is Christianity good for the world? (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2009), 22-23.

Next Page »