Friday, April 29, 2011

From the Fall to the Ascent

Two people: a handsome man and a beautiful woman, both of whom are clad in thick, furry animal skins, leave behind a lovely forested garden... in utter disgrace and frustration. Behind them spinsas if by an invisible handa furious blade of brilliant flame. They depart under the stern, unforgiving glare of the garden's guardians—manifestations of supernatural spirit creatures called Cherubs.

In their wake they leave a trail, indeed a deep river, of human blood from untold millions, even billions of dead mingled with terrifying screams and agonizing groans. The couple are deaf to the sorrowful shrieks that fill the air, and their feet are dry of the blood. With an air of naivety, they leave unaware of their legacy that is all to plain in the sight of the Cherubs.

Two points must be understood when considering hamartiology and soteriology, the study of the nature of sin and the study of salvation:
  1. God did not know that Adam would sin.
  2. Adam and Eve cannot be saved by the ransom.
(The following is from articles in the WTL CD-ROM.)

Here is what God set before Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” “And Jehovah God also laid this command upon the man: ‘From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.’” (Gen. 1:28; 2:16, 17) Would you encourage your children to undertake a project with a marvelous future, knowing from the start that it was doomed to failure? Would you warn them of harm, while knowing that you had planned everything so that they were sure to come to grief? Is it reasonable, then, to attribute such to God?

If God foreordained and foreknew Adam’s sin and all that would result from this, it would mean that by creating Adam, God deliberately set in motion all the wickedness committed in human history. He would be the Source of all the wars, the crime, the immorality, the oppression, the lying, the hypocrisy, the disease. But the Bible clearly says: “You are not a God taking delight in wickedness.” (Ps. 5:4) “Anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.” (Ps. 11:5) “God . . . cannot lie.” (Titus 1:2) “From oppression and from violence he [the One designated by God as Messianic King] will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.” (Ps. 72:14) “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) “He is a lover of righteousness and justice.”—Ps. 33:5.

“A Corresponding Ransom”
“In Adam all are dying,” said the apostle Paul. (1 Corinthians 15:22) The ransom thus had to involve the death of the exact equal of Adam—a perfect human. (Romans 5:14) No other kind of creature could balance the scales of justice. Only a perfect human, someone not under the Adamic death sentence, could offer “a corresponding ransom”—one corresponding perfectly to Adam. (1 Timothy 2:6)[1] It would not be necessary for untold millions of individual humans to be sacrificed so as to correspond to each descendant of Adam. The apostle Paul explained: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin.” (Romans 5:12) And “since death is through a man,” God provided for the redemption of mankind “through a man.” (1 Corinthians 15:21) How?
Jehovah arranged to have a perfect man voluntarily sacrifice his life. According to Romans 6:23, “the wages sin pays is death.” In sacrificing his life, the ransomer would “taste death for every man.” In other words, he would pay the wage for Adam’s sin. (Hebrews 2:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24) This would have profound legal consequences. By nullifying the death sentence upon Adam’s obedient offspring, the ransom would cut off the destructive power of sin right at its source.—Romans 5:16.
Adam and Eve could not have benefited from the ransom. The Mosaic Law stated this principle regarding a willful murderer: “You must take no ransom for the soul of a murderer who is deserving to die.” (Numbers 35:31) Clearly, Adam and Eve deserved to die because they willingly and knowingly disobeyed God. They thereby gave up their prospect of everlasting life.

As seen in the June 15, 2011 issue of The Watchtower, page 13.

To illustrate: Imagine that you live in a town where most of the residents are employed at a large factory. You and your neighbors are well paid for your labors and lead comfortable lives. That is, until the day the factory closes its doors. The reason? The factory manager turned corrupt, forcing the business into bankruptcy. Suddenly out of work, you and your neighbors are unable to pay the bills. Marriage mates, children, and creditors suffer because of that one man’s corruption. Is there a way out? Yes! A wealthy benefactor decides to intervene. He appreciates the value of the company. He also feels for its many employees and their families. So he arranges to pay off the company’s debt and reopen the factory. The cancellation of that one debt brings relief to the many employees and their families and to the creditors. Similarly, the cancellation of Adam’s debt benefits untold millions.

Who Provides the Ransom?
Only Jehovah could provide “the Lamb . . . that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) But God did not send just any angel to rescue mankind. Instead, he sent the One who could furnish the ultimate, conclusive answer to Satan’s charge against Jehovah’s servants. Yes, Jehovah made the supreme sacrifice of sending his only-begotten Son, “the one he was specially fond of.” (Proverbs 8:30) Willingly, God’s Son “emptied himself” of his heavenly nature. (Philippians 2:7) Miraculously, Jehovah transferred the life and the personality pattern of his firstborn heavenly Son to the womb of a Jewish virgin named Mary. (Luke 1:27, 35) As a man, he would be called Jesus. But in a legal sense, he could be called the second Adam, for he corresponded perfectly to Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47) Jesus could thus offer himself up in sacrifice as a ransom for sinful mankind.

To whom would that ransom be paid? Psalm 49:7 specifically says that the ransom is paid “to God.” But is not Jehovah the one who arranges for the ransom in the first place? Yes, but this does not reduce the ransom to a pointless, mechanical exchange—like taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another. It must be appreciated that the ransom is, not a physical exchange, but a legal transaction. By providing for the payment of the ransom, even at enormous cost to himself, Jehovah affirmed his unwavering adherence to his own perfect justice.—Genesis 22:7, 8, 11-13; Hebrews 11:17; James 1:17.

In the spring of 33 C.E., Jesus Christ willingly submitted to an ordeal that led to the payment of the ransom. He allowed himself to be arrested on false charges, judged guilty, and nailed to a stake of execution. Was it really necessary for Jesus to suffer so much? Yes, because the issue of the integrity of God’s servants had to be settled. Significantly, God did not allow the infant Jesus to be killed by Herod. (Matthew 2:13-18) But when Jesus was an adult, he was able to withstand the brunt of Satan’s attacks with full comprehension of the issues. In order to counterbalance the sin of Adam, Jesus had to die, not as a perfect child, but as a perfect man. Remember, Adam’s sin was willful, carried out with full knowledge of the seriousness of the act and its consequences. So in order to become “the last Adam” and cover that sin, Jesus had to make a mature, knowing choice to keep his integrity to Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47) Thus Jesus’ entire faithful life course—including his sacrificial death—served as “one act of justification.”—Romans 5:18, 19.

By remaining “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners” in spite of horrific treatment, Jesus proved with dramatic finality that Jehovah does have servants who remain faithful under trial. (Hebrews 7:26) No wonder, then, that at the moment before his death, Jesus cried out triumphantly: “It has been accomplished!”—John 19:30.


[1] The translation “corresponding ransom” is from one Greek word: antilutron. See also the Concordant Version, which translates antilutron as “correspondent Ransom.” Additionally, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words under “Ransom” calls the ‘anti’ preposition “significant.”

Related blog post: Only One Could be the Christ