Before discussing redemption, it is necessary to discuss sin. First, realize that sin is defined as "An injury or break in a person's relationship with God." Today, sin (especially private sin) is scoffed at in much of Western culture. This follows directly from the way that God is scoffed at in much of Western culture. To acknowledge a God who loves us is to acknowledge our ability to injure our relationship with God. Jesus is very explicit about the reality of sin and our need to repair our relationship with God. Once we honestly accept Christianity, it becomes readily apparent that our relationship with God is broken. We typically go through a phase of trying to fix ourselves without assistance from anyone. We soon find that this is inadequate. We must reach out for the assistance of Jesus, which is given to all who ask for it.
Jesus is our redeemer in several ways. First, we have spoken previously of Jesus's forgiveness of sins. To ask Jesus's forgiveness is to receive it. Thus, Jesus washes away past sin. Forgiveness of sins is so important to Jesus that he instituted two formal mechanisms by which sin could be washed away: Baptism and Reconciliation. In Baptism (Mt 28:19), we are initiated into the Church. This necessitates that our past transgressions will not be held against us, so our sins must be forgiven. We are born again (Jn 3:1-8) into Jesus (Rom 6:3). Our old lives are washed away (1 Pet 3:21) and replaced with new lives in God. However, we do not always live up to the expectations of our new life. For this, Jesus instituted Reconciliation (Mt 16:19, 18:18; Jn 20:21-23). Only God can forgive sins. However, Jesus shared that power with specific men, whom we now call priests. Since Jesus is no longer with us in the flesh, he provided a necessary human element to assist in our Reconciliation to him. The priest is an intermediary for Jesus, who acts in and through the priest to offer us forgiveness.
Second, Jesus is a guide. Jesus is the redeemer, not only by forgiving past sins, but by leading us to a new life of love and holiness. He shows us how to live both by his acts and his teachings.
Third, Jesus, in a very real way, takes the penalty for our sin. Without the pain of the crucifixion, there could not have been the glory of the resurrection. Without the glory of the resurrection, we would have no reason to accept the divinity of Jesus or his ability to forgive us. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he spoke of his sacrifice for our redemption:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Mt 26:26-28; parallels in Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20)
He takes the punishment, and we get the reward. For additional scriptural defense, we have Is 53:7-12; Jn 1:29; Eph 5:2; 1 Cor 5:7; Rom 3:25; Hebr 9:1-28; 1 Jn 2:2. From these verses, we get a title of Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God.
Fourth, Jesus acts as the interface between us and God the Father; as he tells us, "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). If we only understand God using philosophy, it can be difficult to have a deep personal relationship with God. This God is so great and ephemeral that it is difficult to understand how God could connect with us. Jesus, however, is both fully human and fully divine. He provides a direct way for us humans to connect with God because he himself has that connection within him. In this way, Jesus redeems our humanity and connects us to divinity.
The central reason Jesus became man is in order to redeem us. He came to save us from our sin and to lead us to life with God. Jesus says, "For the Son of Man [Jesus] has come to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19:10), and "Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Mt 9:13). This teaching is also given by Isaiah (Is 35:4), elsewhere in the Gospels (Lk 2:11, 2:30; Jn 3:17) and in Paul's letters (1 Tim 1:15). Thus, we call Jesus Savior. Note that Jesus means God Saves (Mt 1:21).
In addition to being the redeemer, Jesus is also the judge. They must go together, because who, but the judge, can forgive the debts of anyone? In addition, we have the words of Jesus, "Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father" (Jn 5:22-23), and "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" (Mt 25:31-32). To each person Jesus holds out his hand, and waits for us to take it. For those who do, the reward is glorious, for those of us who do not, the penalty is severe. Jesus gives various descriptions of the difference between Heaven and Hell. I quote one here:
He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn." ' " (Mt 13:24-30)
Jesus later explains:
He said in reply, "He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear." (Mt 13: 37-43)
To be the final judge, Jesus must also be the absolute lawgiver. Jesus asserts his lawgiving power (Jn 14:15, 15:10; Mt 28:20), and gives the law of love (Jn 13:34, 15:12), as well as many other commandments. Finally, note that to be the Judge and Lawgiver, Jesus must also be the King, because as Judge and Lawgiver he is the highest authority. In other words, in the celestial government, Jesus is all. Jesus asserts his kingship (Mk 8:29; Jn 4:25-26, 18:37; Mt 28:18), but that it is not of this world (Jn 6:15, 18:36). The name Christ is actually a title, meaning Anointed One, which is a translation of Messiah, the promised new King of Israel from the Old Testament (Ps 2, 45, 72; Is 9:1-6; Dn 7:13-15). Jews do not accept this understanding of Jesus, which corresponds with their rejection of the New Testament. Of course, any Jew who does accept the New Testament becomes a Christian; and is a Jew no longer.
At one level, the difference between glory and damnation is a legal one. Follow the specified laws; and you are good and rewarded; otherwise, you are bad and are punished. This is the understanding of Heaven and Hell that is typically parodied by non-Christians. Those that focus on this at the exclusion of other goals are missing the point. The laws are a crutch to prepare us for the goal, but they are not the goal. Others believe that getting into Heaven is like a driver's license exam. Have sufficient knowledge about and belief in Jesus, and you're in. Otherwise, you fail and are not allowed to enter. Knowledge of God helps lead us to the goal, but it is not the goal. To quote Paul:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I show know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13)
The goal is acceptance of Love, or equivalently, the acceptance of God, because God is Love (1 Jn 4:8). We must realize that God loves everyone infinitely. What is different is how we respond to that love. After death, there is no avoiding God. To love God is to feel the ecstasy of true love consummated, completely and perfectly. To hate God is to be unable to escape. Wherever you go, God is there. Whatever you do, God is wrapping himself around, beside, and inside you. To be truly intimate with that which you hate is infinite torture. With this understanding, we realize that the fire of Hell is the love of God, rejected.
However, many of us are not completely ready for true intimacy with God. There is some sin that we are not ready to give up, but we do love God, so Hell is not appropriate either. For this reason, we understand that if you die in this state you will feel both Heaven and Hell imperfectly. In so far as you are in a state of love you feel the joy of Heaven. In so far as you are in a state of sin, you feel the pain of Hell. In the process, the fires of this domain, called Purgatory, burn away the sin, and leave only the joy. Scripture speaks of the possibility of the forgiveness of sins after death (2 Mac 12:46; Mt 5:26, 12:31-32) and that the process can be painful, as in fire (1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7).
This page was last changed on 2011/08/28