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: Introduction

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

Introduction

You are in trouble. You may know that, or feel it. You may have come to this book sensing that something is wrong. The truth is: something is wrong with the world and something is wrong with you. You see things. You hear things. You know there is groaning and suffering. You are not the only one.

Maybe you came here thinking everything is fine. Sure you have had discomforts and inconveniences, but it all works out and it will be okay in the end. You have heard of some who have a hard time but they are in faraway places, and things will pick up for them. You are enjoying life. You are not the only one.

Whether you think you are in trouble or not, you are likely wrong on both counts. If you think you are in trouble, you do not know the half of it. If you think you are not in trouble, you are deceiving yourself into false security.

Those are strong, direct statements. You may think I am rude, harsh, or even unloving in making them. You may think I am arrogant and judgmental. I don’t even know you so how could I say such things about you? It would be unloving and judgmental if I were saying that about everyone else but me. The trouble I am talking about is the world’s trouble and I am in trouble as much as everyone else. At least, I was. There is one, and only one, way out of trouble and I am writing to tell you about it.

What is the trouble? Before I answer that question, let me ask another one. What is wrong with the world? You can offer several good answers to that question—crime, war, poverty, wealth, religion. All those things contribute in some way, but all the answers to that question can be bundled into one answer—sin. Sin is what is wrong with the world. You can look out around you today and see it. You can look back through history and see it. Sin is the problem.

You are probably thinking: Okay, here we go with the fundamentalist rant about cussin’, drinkin’, dancin’, and smokin’. It might surprise you to hear that those types of things are not the real problem. We could stop all that tomorrow and the world would not be out of trouble.

Sin is what is wrong with the world, but that is not the whole picture. You can point to sin to account for human atrocities and evil deeds in the past, present, and the future, but the world’s trouble is after that. The Jewish prophet, Jeremiah, wrote of a future time known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). The trouble he referred to is a time of judgment on the nation of Israel. The world’s trouble I am referring to is the future, final judgment that all men will face.

The biblical record is clear that this life is not all there is. If this present life was all there is, then sin would still be a problem, but at least death would end it. Sympathies to all those dealt a losing hand, but at least it is over. But, this life is not all there is and the grave neither ends nor solves the problem.

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

The judgment that is the world’s trouble is a judgment where every violation of God’s law will receive a just punishment (Hebrews 2:2). Jesus warned that everything will be judged, even the idle words we speak (Matthew 12:36). That’s the judgment the world is going to and that’s the trouble the entire world is in.

I did mention there is one way, and only one way, out of this trouble. I am writing to tell you about this way. No one is excluded from this way because of their gender, ethnicity, or social class. No one is excluded from this way because of the mountain of sins casting a shadow over their life and darkening their quiet times. This way is good news and our only hope.

I invite you now to think about sin, what it is and why it is a problem. You will see how, from the greatest to the smallest, the whole world is guilty before God. You will learn about the way of escape God has made and how to distinguish the one true way from all other ways that promise deliverance. By the end, you will know how this way was made in the wisdom, mercy, and grace of God. You will know what it cost and what it is worth.

If I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee, this is what I would want to say to you.

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.