REDEMPTION — God’s Plan of Liberation for Humanity & Creation
The Bible is all about 1. the LORD creating the Heavens & Earth and all living things, 2. the rebellion and expulsion from Heaven of Satan & his foul underlings, 3. humanity’s fall, 4. Satan’s usurpation of authority over creation and, most of all, 5. God’s brilliant, loving plan of redemption. In this article we’re going to focus on this fifth element—the LORD’s awesome plan of redemption.
If you want to “reign in life” (Romans 5:17) you’re going to have to thoroughly know your redemption.
“All the World’s a Stage”
The fascinating events of Genesis 3 are drama of the highest order and bring to mind Shakespeare’s famous verse:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
- The stage in Genesis 3 is a beautiful garden roughly the size of California or Iraq (according to dimensions specified in Genesis) on a planet called Earth in a solar system in one galaxy of an estimated 200 billion galaxies in the Universe (!).
- The players are: 1. The Almighty Creator, 2. His nemesis who was kicked out of Heaven and dwells in the dark spiritual dimension that parallels the Earth and Universe, 3. Adam & Eve (and the human race in their loins), the only beings created in the likeness of God and called to be co-heirs with Christ, and 4. a harmless, beautiful animal that Satan uses to dupe Adam & Eve and usurp their authority over the Earth and Universe.
- The prop is a tree with the forbidden fruit thereof.
- The suspense concerns whose word Adam & Eve will believe—God’s or Satan’s—which will determine their destiny and the destiny of the human race.
- The tragedy is their fall, the cursing of creation and the ensuing pathos of life in a fallen world.
- The challenge is how the Creator can possibly set things aright without compromising His perfect justice.
- The story contains elements of all great dramas—a noble hero, a wicked villain (or foil), protagonists, deceit, the testing of character, tragedy and potential redemption. Speaking of redemption, let’s look at…
God’s Plan of Redemption for Humanity
To ‘redeem’ means “to liberate through payment of ransom” or “to clear of debt through proper payment.” In the 1st century nearly half the people on Earth were slaves in one form or another. The Greek word for ‘redeem’ was used back then in reference to purchasing freedom for a slave.
While slavery still exists today, it’s much less widespread. However, spiritual slavery is rampant because everyone born from Adam is a slave to sin and captive to the kingdom of darkness. The awesome news is that God has purchased our freedom from this spiritual slavery through the precious blood of Christ.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Peter 1:18-19
We’ve been liberated through the death and resurrection of Christ, which is the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Peter summarizes what we’ve been freed from as “the empty way of life” handed down to us from our ancestors. This refers to people’s empty existence separate from God as slaves to sin with Satan as slave master. Such bondage was handed down to us by our ancestors, Adam & Eve.
Some will understandably reason that it’s unfair for sin and spiritual slavery to be passed from our primordial parents to the rest of us. Answer: This is what theologians refer to as federal headship, which simply means that Adam was the human race’s spiritual, moral and physical fountainhead, our lone representative. The entire race was in his loins when he deliberately sinned and thus sin was passed on to all descendants (Romans 5:12). Think about it in terms of genetics: We naturally inherit characteristics of our fore-parents, such as facial features and skin color; the same principle is at play in a spiritual sense.
To be set free from this generational curse of sin we’d have to be born of a new Adam—a second Adam—one who doesn’t transfer sin and death, but rather life, because he was not born of the seed of Adam, but of the seed of God. Believe it or not, this is the core message of the gospel. Christ is the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Let me explain…
Our freedom was purchased through the precious blood of Yeshua:
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
God has rescued us—liberated us—from bondage to the kingdom of darkness through Christ. We’re no longer slaves to Satan, as long as you’ve accepted the awesome gospel.
This great salvation corresponds to the LORD’s prophecy after the fall of Adam & Eve:
“And I [God] will put enmity
between you [Satan] and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers [Christ];
he [Christ] will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
The offspring of the woman—Christ—would eventually deal Satan a fatal blow. The best the devil could do to circumvent this was to try to thwart the birth of the Messiah—which he repeatedly tried to do, but failed. The satanic attempt to pollute the bloodline through the “sons of God” copulating with women was one such attempt (Genesis 6:1-4), as covered here. Once Yeshua was born, the devil naturally manipulated his puppets in the Roman/Hebrew governments to have Jesus unjustly captured, tortured and executed, which amounted to “striking his heal.” Of course this played into God’s genius plan as the death and resurrection of Christ were key to our redemption.
The First Adam and the Great Wall
Adam’s sin and the passing of a sin nature to his descendants built an impenetrable wall between God and the human race. Yet, Hallelujah, the ministry of the second Adam—Jesus Christ—tore that wall down so that we can reconcile with our Creator.
This “great wall” is a barrier consisting of four figurative blocks:
- The holy character of God.
- The debt of sin.
- Slavery to Satan.
- Spiritual death.
Let’s look at all four:
The holy character of God. Have you ever known people who were so ‘good’ that you felt uncomfortable being around them, perhaps inferior? This is magnified when you know they’re aware of some of your more hideous “skeletons in the closet.” The reason you felt uncomfortable is because their moral standards were so high that you assumed they’d be judgmental of you, which created a sense of alienation.
Now relate this to the human race and God. All humanity is born of Adam’s seed and therefore has an inherent sin nature, which stands in stark contrast to the LORD’s flawlessness—His absolute purity, righteousness, justice, love, immutableness (unchangeableness), and veracity. Thus God’s holy character became a barrier after the fall. Is it any wonder that the Bible says “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)? Notice it doesn’t say that our bad deeds are like filthy rags, but rather our righteous acts! God is so holy—so absolutely perfect—that even what we would consider good works by human standards are offensive by comparison. In short, there’s an infinite gap between fallen humanity and the LORD due to God’s holy character.
The debt of sin. Back in the 1st century Roman Empire when criminals were judged they were given a Certificate of Debt, which was placed on the door of their cells. This document cited how they failed to live according to the law of Caesar and denoted the corresponding sentence. When the penalty was fulfilled their Certificate of Debt was stamped “Paid in Full” so that they would not be punished again for their crimes. Of course, if the penalty was death this was irrelevant, but if the consequence was time it was valuable: If someone tried to accuse them of a past offense all they had to do was show their canceled Certificate of Debt. Until that debt was paid, however, it stood between them and freedom.
Now let’s relate this to the human race and the perfect moral Law of God, summed up in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. All of us have sinned against God’s Law because the infection of sin passed from our Federal Headship to us. We’re all infected with a sinful nature and have missed it one way or another; actually we’ve transgressed innumerable ways, not just “one,” particularly when you consider the so-called “little sins,” like arrogance, envy, jealousy, rivalry, greed, carnal lust and the like. Since the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) we’ve all been assigned a Certificate of Debt, which cites the penalty of our offenses as death (Colossians 2:14). This is why the Bible says “whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (John 3:18).
Humanity’s debt of sin means that we’re in a state of criminality apart from Christ, the second Adam. We’re thus “objects of [God’s] wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). It’s an impassable barrier between us and God and can only be removed if a qualified individual paid the penalty of death in our place.
Slavery to Satan. This third block in the great wall that separates God and humanity refers to Satan apprehending power-of-attorney over physical creation and hence becoming the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) or, as Christ called him, “the prince of this world” (John 12:31, John 14:30 & John 16:11). ‘Prince’ in the Greek is archon (AR-kohn), which means “ruler, governor, leader.” The devil is the spiritual ruler of this planet and thus the world is one big slave market where everyone born of the seed of Adam is legally a slave to Satan, whether they know it or not. This explains why the Messiah said the conservative religious leaders of Israel where children of the devil, to their astonishment (John 8:33-44). It’s why the New Testament proclaims in no uncertain terms that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” “who leads the whole world astray” (1 John 5:19 & Revelation 12:9). It explains Christ’s commission to Paul to turn people “from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). It explains why Satan is referred to as “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2).
Unredeemed humanity may be God’s creation, but they’re not God’s children. They lawfully belong to their cruel slave master, the devil. The only person born into this world that was not born in subjugation to Satan is our Mighty Savior, Jesus Christ, because he was not born of the seed (sperm) of a human father and therefore was not tainted with Adam’s sin infection (Luke 1:34-35). To be set free of slavery to Satan a person has to be born of God’s seed and thus become a child of God (1 John 3:2,9 & 5:1).
Spiritual death. God warned Adam & Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because “in the day” that they did so they would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The Hebrew word for ‘death’—muwth (mooth)—is actually used twice in this statement and therefore could be rendered “in dying you will die.” In short, something died in Adam & Eve the moment they sinned, which led to their eventual physical decease. Theologians refer to this as spiritual death, which doesn’t mean that their spirit ceased to exist, but rather that their spirit became dead to God because Adam & Eve lost their spiritual life or eternal life. Their relationship with their Creator was thus short-circuited; it died. This condition was unfortunately passed on to everyone born into this world ever since.
Of course, God does not hold children accountable until they reach the “age of accountability,” which refers to the age that youths are held responsible for their sins. Theologians typically place this age at 13 based on the Jewish custom that a child becomes an adult at 13, but the Bible doesn’t actually say this. Interestingly, God only held Israelites 20 years-old and older accountable for serious sins of unbelief committed during the Hebrews’ desert journey to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:29-30). No doubt the age of accountability varies according to the maturity level of the individual and the severity of the sin in question. In any case, before the age of accountability children are spiritually alive; after the age of accountability they’re spiritually dead (Paul implied this in Romans 7:9). Yet all people inevitably sin—assuming they mature—and therefore they spiritually die due to the sin infection passed from Adam.
Because of this condition of spiritual death there’s a great wall between God and humanity. It’s impossible for unredeemed people to do anything to change this condition and reconcile to the LORD by their own efforts. As such, no human-made religion can reconcile people to their Creator and grant forgiveness of sins or eternal life. This explains a statement Jesus made to his disciples when they asked him who could be saved. He responded:
“With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
Eternal salvation and everything that goes with it—reconciliation with the LORD, the forgiveness of sins and acquisition of eternal life—are only available through God and not human-made religion, including religious “Christianity,” which isn’t actual Christianity. These wonderful things are available exclusively from God through the gospel, which explains why ‘gospel’ literally means “good news.”
Paul said that God gives “all men life” (Acts 17:25). The word ‘life’ here is the Greek word zoe (ZOH-ay), which in this context refers to the temporal life (zoe) that God grants all people and is acquired simply by being born of the perishable seed of Adam. Consequently, everyone born into this world has temporal life (zoe). To receive eternal life (zoe) people must be born-again of the imperishable seed of Christ, the second Adam (see 1 John 3:9, 1 Peter 1:23, Romans 5:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:45). This is what the gospel of Christ is all about and it’s all summed up nicely in the Bible’s most famous passage:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This is the gospel in a nutshell. Speaking of which…
The Second Adam Demolishes the Great Wall
Summing up, the “great wall” that separates God and fallen humanity consists of four impenetrable blocks—1. God’s holy character, 2. our debt of sin, 3. slavery to Satan and 4. spiritual death—and no amount of human effort, religion or philosophy can bring it down. We can’t even get over the wall with God’s aid; the barrier must be destroyed.
This is precisely what Jesus Christ—the second Adam—did. To explain, consider this little parable: An entomologist lived by some woods where he studied the various insects. There was a huge ant hill of which he was particularly fond. When news came that the nearby road was going to be extended through the woods and it was on a collision course with the ant hill the entomologist longed to save his beloved ants, but it was impossible to communicate the dangers to them. The only way he could do so would be to become an ant!
I’m sure you see the parallel to God’s concern for the human race. Yet there’s one huge difference: God didn’t just become a human being to warn us to repent or perish (Luke 13:1-9), the Creator sacrificed himself for us by dying in our place.
Let’s look at the four works the Mighty Christ did that demolished the great wall between God and humanity:
Propitiation. This somewhat intimidating theological term simply means that Yeshua’s sacrifice turned away God’s wrath by satisfying violated justice. In other words, propitiation appeased the offense to God’s holy character and rendered us favorable to the LORD—reconciling the wrongdoer with the affronted. Thus the Messiah’s act of propitiation—his atoning sacrifice—demolished the block of God’s offended character. We observe this here:
He is the atoning sacrifice [aka propitiation] for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:2
Christ is the “atoning sacrifice” for our transgressions. These two words are one word in the Greek: hilasmos (hil-as-MOSS), which means “a propitiation” or “atoning sacrifice.” You’ll usually see hilasmos translated as one or the other in English Bibles. To atone means to make amends or reparations for an offense or a crime. That’s what the Messiah did for us. Praise God!
Redemption. This is the work of Christ that 1. canceled our debt of sin and 2. freed us from slavery to Satan. In other words, redemption demolished the next two blocks of the great wall that separates God and humanity.
Concerning canceling our debt of sin, when Yeshua was nailed to the huge cross darkness fell upon the land for three hours whereupon Christ bore the sins of the world. It was at this time that the Son was utterly forsaken by the Father (Matthew 27:45-46). The Father perhaps allowed the pitch blackness so that no one could see the horror of what happened to the Son as he was engulfed by divine wrath when the sins of humanity were put on him.
For the first time Christ experienced the aloneness of being wholly separated from the Father & Holy Spirit with the corresponding sense of emptiness and meaninglessness.
Right before he died Jesus cried out a single, potent word, teleó (tel-AY-o), which means “It is finished” or “Paid in full” (Matthew 27:50 & John 19:30). This was the same Greek word stamped on a Roman prisoner’s Certificate of Debt when his or her sentence was completed. In other words, the price was paid for our sins and thus our Certificate of Debt was essentially stamped “Paid in Full.”
Concerning freeing us from satanic slavery, this passage best details our redemption through Christ’s sacrifice:
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
1 Timothy 2:5-6
As noted earlier, to ‘redeem’ means “to liberate through payment of ransom; to clear of debt through proper payment.” We’ve been liberated from slavery to the kingdom of darkness through the sacrifice of the Creator. Jesus was qualified to do this because 1. He wasn’t himself a slave to Satan since he wasn’t born of Adam’s seed, but rather God’s seed (Luke 1:35); and 2. He was a willing redeemer. You see, a slave doesn’t have the clout to order someone to pay for his or her ransom. The liberator had to do so voluntarily, which explains why Christ emphasized this (John 10:17-18).
Yet what was his motivation? Love. Love sent the Lord to the cross to cancel our debt of sin and liberate us from slavery to the devil (John 3:16).
Substitutionary death. Whereas propitiation concerns God and appeasing his offended character; and redemption concerns sin and paying our debt of sin, as well as liberating us from Satan’s slave market; substitutionary death concerns the penalty of death, which is “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). All “substitutionary death” means is that Christ died in our place, the innocent for the guilty, which we observe in this potent verse:
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
By dying in our place, Christ removed the barrier of spiritual death and all that goes with it—being dead to God, the loss of eternal life, physical death and, ultimately, the dreaded second death (Revelation 20:11-15).
Because death is the wages of sin, substitutionary animal sacrifice was implemented immediately by God to reestablish fellowship after Adam & Eve’s fall. Thus an innocent animal had to die when the LORD killed a mammal to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:21). This established the principle that a guiltless substitute had to perish in order for sin to be forgiven or, at least, temporarily covered.
This blood sacrifice at the beginning of human history was prototypical and therefore cultures in ensuing generations utilized the concept, some staying close to the pattern and others devolving into perverse variations.
It’s interesting to observe in Scripture how substitutionary sacrifice applied to 1. one lamb for one person (Genesis 4:4 & Leviticus 4:32), 2. one lamb for one family (Exodus 12:3-14), 3. one lamb (or bull) for a nation (Leviticus 16) and 4. one “lamb” for the world, which refers to Christ and explains why John the Baptist exclaimed: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The Lord’s great sacrifice fulfilled the need for one lamb for one person, one lamb for one family and one lamb for one nation.
It was no coincidence, by the way, that Christ’s crucifixion took place on the Day of Passover because he was the world’s Passover lamb. Just as the blood of a lamb placed on the doorframes of the homes of the Hebrews would allow the death angel to “pass over” their abodes (Exodus 12:7,12-13), so the blood of Christ sprinkled on the doorposts of our hearts prompts God to “pass over” us, as far as the damning judgment of eternal death goes.
I want to stress again the Lord’s motivation for dying for us. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Christ died in our place because He loved us!
While the Messiah’s propitiation, redemption and substitutionary death demolished the four blocks of the great wall which alienated God from humanity, a final work was necessary to unite us by reestablishing relationship:
Reconciliation. To ‘reconcile’ means to change from a state of enmity to friendship. Reconciliation therefore neutralized hostility between God and humanity and this explains something Paul said:
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
At its core the gospel is about reconciling to our Creator, which is why the “good news” is also referred to as “the message of reconciliation”:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
The conditions for reconciling with God are repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). Repentance seems to have a negative connotation today, but it simply means to change your mind for the positive, which therefore changes your direction. It means turning from rebellion to compliance, from dark to light, from destructivity to productivity. While it’s possible to repent and not believe, it’s not possible to truly believe and not repent.
A person’s embracing of the message of reconciliation is the first stage of what Christ called the “restoration of all things,” which refers to the liberation of the Earth and all creation from Satan’s dominion and the bondage to decay (i.e. entropy). You can read about the restoration of all things here.
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