Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

[NOTE: If you did not read the “Introduction”, please take a few minutes to read it before you begin.]

Preface

This article answers the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” To answer this correctly, the reliability of the resources to which we look for information is of utmost importance.

Holy BibleThe primary source for my research on the historical record and the spiritual significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, is the Bible. This article does not engage in a defense of the truth and accuracy of the Bible, biblical integrity is accepted. The Bible is the inspired, infallible, God-breathed, Word of God and is as reliable today as it was when it was written.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (Holy Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Some people question the integrity and accuracy of the Bible. Their argument is that the Bible is corrupt and it cannot be trusted. This is a misguided understanding at best, and many books and websites address this issue.

If you want to learn more about how the Bible came into existence and how God has preserved the biblical texts, the following websites are good resources:

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

EveryStudent.com

Unfortunately, for the most part these websites are in English. I will work to find accurate resources in other languages and will post them on this site when they are available.

In summary, the message of this article is based on information found in the Bible. The Bible is accurate and can be trusted, as God has preserved the text and its message. This is the position taken by the author and is the basis for what is written on “WhyDidJesusHavetoDie.com.”

One last thing before we start: in order to understand why Jesus had to die, we must understand who God is, who man is, and what the relationship is between the two. Let’s begin…

The Nature of God

God is Holy

The Bible refers to God as being holy more than any of his other attributes. Isaiah the prophet emphasized God’s holiness by declaring, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)

A respected contemporary Bible commentator brought attention to the Bible’s emphasis on God’s holiness when he stated:

The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love, or mercy, mercy, mercy, or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy; the whole earth is full of His glory.1

The Bible teaches that God is love, mercy, wrath, and just, among other attributes, but foremost he is holy.

What is holiness? What does it mean to be holy?

In the most simplistic terms, to be holy means to be separate. “Separate in what sense?” you may ask. Answering this question correctly is fundamental to understanding the nature and character of God.

Quite often, people think of, and define, a person as holy when he or she lives his or her life at a high moral or ethical standard, especially in relation to religious guidelines. The more moral or ethical a person behaves the more holy he or she is perceived to be. This reasoning begs the question, how do we know what is moral or ethical?

Many people apply this line of reasoning to God in an attempt to understand who he is. While God is indeed both morally and ethically superior to everyone (he is perfect), there is much more to learn in order for us to know who God is.

God is holy, or separate, in many ways. The Bible tells us the attributes of God that separate him from mankind and all other created things. Listed below are a few selected attributes. This list is not comprehensive.

There is only one God. The Bible teaches that there is one God and that he is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this is confusing for Christians and non-Christians alike. Non-Christians, especially in the Islamic world, often believe Christians are polytheists (a belief in more than one God) because the Bible teaches that Jesus is divine. However, Scripture teaches that there are three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, and they are one God.

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Mark 12:29)

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:4)

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6)

Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. (Galatians 3:20)

[There is] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:6)

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! (James 2:19)

God is a spirit. He does not have a physical body as humans do.

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)

 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Cor. 3:17)

God is eternal. God has always existed and he always will.

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27a)

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalms 90:1-2)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)

God is the creator. He was not created; he is the creator of all things.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it. (Isaiah 42:5)

 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. (Mark 13:19)

 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

 Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

God is righteous. Morality, ethics, purity, etc., are defined by his nature.

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. (Psalms 7:11)

 For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Psalms 11:7)

 Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules. (Psalms 119:137)

 Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true. (Psalms 119:142)

 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. (Psalms 145:17)

God is just. Perfect justice will be administered by God. He is the judge.

But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. (Psalms 9:7-8)

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. (Psalms 103:6)

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18)

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:3)

For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong. (Isaiah 61:8a)

God is sovereign. God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and everything is under his rule.

And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them.” (Acts 4:24)

They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)

God is love. God’s love is steadfast and eternal, because he is eternal.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16)

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalms 136:26)

But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:24)

God is separate from every created being. He is separate from everyone and everything because of his nature. There is none like him; he stands alone. He is God. He is holy.

Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?” (Psalms 77:13)

There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2)

Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy! (Psalms 99:9)

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. (Revelation 15:4)

Many additional verses refer to God’s holiness and his other attributes throughout the Bible.

God is Righteous and Just

Referring to God, the psalmist wrote, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalms 89:14) According to this verse, the very foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice.

Just as holiness is inherent to the nature of God, so are righteousness and justice. These two characteristics are closely related, and essentially, go hand in hand. Righteousness is the standard that God’s nature demands. Justice is the act of judging according to that standard.

Since God’s nature is the very source of both righteousness and justice, anything that falls short of God’s perfect nature, or his attributes, is unholy, unrighteous and unjust.

Righteousness

On a basic level, people may understand righteousness as morals or ethics, as referred to previously in our discussion on holiness. For example, how does mankind know what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, or ethical and unethical? Well, while we may think that society makes these determinations, it does not; ultimately, God’s nature and character do, and his nature is perfect righteousness!

Stop and think about this for a few moments because this is very important. God’s nature defines what is righteous, perfect, holy, and just. It is not the other way around. God does not live up to a set of rules, and by doing so become holy. He is holy first, and we gain an understanding of holiness by knowing him. These attributes are who he is and they are unchangeable.

Societies frequently disagree with God’s perfect standard of holiness and regularly tolerate unholy behavior until it becomes the accepted norm. Even so, this does not make the accepted norm correct. When people behave contrary to what God’s righteousness demands, they sin against God.

All unrighteousness (or wrongdoing) is sin. (1 John 5:17a)

Justice

God’s justice determines what action is required in response to unrighteousness, or sin. For example, God’s righteousness necessitates that a person must not murder another human being. However, when someone commits murder, the justice of God demands that the offender receives punishment. When God dispenses judgment, there are no mistakes, no misjudgments, and no injustice. It is perfect, because he is perfect and he will judge based on his righteousness.

God’s holiness is revealed to mankind when we see his righteousness and justice on display.

But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness. (Isaiah 5:16)

He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. (Psalms 33:5)

Furthermore, the Bible states that God cannot violate his own nature nor do anything contrary to it.

Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. (Job 34:12)

The Almighty – we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate. (Job 37:23)

Summary

God is holy. He is separate from mankind in his nature and being. There is none like him.

God is righteous. Man understands righteousness by looking to the nature of God. Righteousness flows from his nature.

God is just. The righteousness of God demands justice when unrighteousness is committed. God is the perfect judge, dispensing justice according to his nature. His justice is administered with steadfast love and faithfulness to his other attributes.

The Nature of Man

Created and Approved

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, tells us that on the sixth day of the creation process, God created the first man (Adam) and the first woman (Eve) then declared his creation, “very good.”

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31)

The first man and woman lived in a perfect environment, and walked and talked with God. They had never experienced sin, death, corruption, or any other evil thing. According to Scripture, they were created in the “image” and “likeness” of God. They were perfect.

Being created in the image and likeness of God does not mean that they were the same as God in essence or nature. They were not eternal like God, but were created beings made to reflect many of the characteristics of God. No other created thing was made this way. Mankind is a special category of creation, different from all the others.

Some theologians have attempted to explain the image and likeness of God by listing characteristics that are unique to God and man. Superior intelligence (reason), language, creativity, morality, spirituality, and dominion are usually prominent on the inventory.

However, Scripture does not provide us with such a list, although it does offer many insights into who God is, who man is, and how mankind reflects in human form the image and likeness of God.

The Bible tells us Adam and Eve had perfect natures and were uncorrupted by any form of unrighteousness. They lived in a perfect environment and had unique, personal access to God, allowing fellowship that no other created being enjoyed.

Even to the casual reader of the Bible it should be obvious that the first man and woman benefited from a special relationship with God above all other created things.

Until…

Convicted and Condemned

God created a perfect environment in which Adam and Eve lived, a garden called Eden. It was in this garden that they lived, worked, and met with and talked to God.

God provided for all the necessities of life for the two inhabitants of Eden. The couple could eat of every tree in the garden, with only one exception; eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was forbidden. God commanded Adam not to eat from this tree.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ (Genesis 2:16-17)

At this point, there was only one thing God told them not to do, they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God made it clear that disobedience to this one command would result in death. It was a simple command, but it was crucial that they obey God.

The Genesis record tells us that Eve was approached by “the serpent” who enticed her to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The serpent insisted that she would not die as God had said, but she would become like God if she ate of it. She believed him, and in disobedience to God’s command, she ate from the tree and shared the food with Adam who was with her, and he ate also.

[NOTE: Satan is a fallen angel who chose evil over serving God. Prior to his choice of evil, Satan was a powerful servant of God. Notably, desiring to become like God, he rebelled, resulting in him being thrown out of heaven, along with a third of the angels. Satan used the serpent to try to accomplish his purposes. (Isaiah 14:12-17; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20)]

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,

but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:1-7)

For the first time in their short lives, Adam and Eve experienced evil. Their eyes were opened, they knew that they were naked, and due to their newly found shame, they made a covering of fig leaves. Shortly afterwards we read that they hid themselves from God. Immediately following their sin of disobedience, the negative effects of God’s promise began to take effect.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8)

Before they ate from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve were innocent, righteous, had no shame, and were eager to be in the presence of God. The couple was at peace with one another and had perfect unity. Now they had experienced evil, they were ashamed of themselves, the unity between them was broken, and they hid from God.

God came to visit them in the garden once more. When God confronted them with what they had done, Adam indirectly blamed God by saying it was Eve, “the woman whom you gave to be with me,” who enticed him to eat. Eve insisted that the serpent was responsible.

God was not moved by their attempts to escape responsibility by pointing fingers at others. He knew the truth and immediately began dispensing justice, first by placing a curse on the serpent, and then on the man and the woman. God ultimately cursed all of creation because of Adam and Eve’s sin.

God replaced the fig-leaf coverings Adam and Eve had made for themselves, with animal skins. God shed the blood of an animal for the first time, foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus. Finally, God cast them out of the garden and into a fallen world.

However, it appears that they did not die as God had promised. They are alive, working, will soon have children, and will live many more years before they “die” in their old age. Did God lie? Did he get it wrong? Did he change his mind? Absolutely not!

Physical Death

Before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, nothing had ever died. As far as the historical record shows, the animal taken by God for Adam and Eve’s covering was the first to die physically.

The disobedience of the first couple brought the curse of physical death into the world. While not immediate, Eve’s eating of the fruit brought death to her, and Adam’s eating of the fruit brought death not only to himself, but also to every person who would live after him.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… (Romans 5:12)

For as in Adam all die… (1Corinthians 15:22a)

[NOTE: This is an extremely significant event. By allowing Adam and Eve to live, God showed mercy and grace toward them. God earlier told Adam regarding the fruit of the forbidden tree, “…in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” Adam and Eve eventually would die physically, but God showed them mercy by postponing their physical death and taking the life/blood of an animal as a temporary substitute.

Many years later God implemented the sacrificial system to remind us that sin is serious and that there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22). However, the shedding of the animal’s blood served as a temporary covering for sins, it did not provide permanent forgiveness or cleansing. That would only come later when Jesus gave himself as the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God for the sins of man.]

Physical death is a reality and unless something extraordinary happens, everyone will die physically. Most people think of death only as a physical event. However, God told Adam, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Physical death was postponed for Adam and Eve by the grace of God and the shed blood of an animal. So, was there another way Adam and Eve died that day?

Spiritual Death

Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought experiential knowledge of evil into their lives. What before was only a concept in their minds was now a reality.

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” (Genesis 3:2-3)

Notice that she not only knew it was wrong to eat of the fruit, but she correctly pointed out that the penalty was death. However, she incorrectly stated that she was not to touch the fruit.

[NOTE: Since lying is a sin, and the first sin was the eating of the forbidden fruit, we can deduce that Eve must have believed touching the fruit was off limits. Perhaps as a precaution Adam told her not to touch it and she assumed it was what God told Adam. Since Scripture does not say, we do not know.]

Immediately upon disobeying God, Adam and Eve died spiritually. While their physical bodies remained alive (for a while at least), their spirits died. Their natures became corrupted and they no longer had the desire to walk and talk with God. In fact, they hid themselves because now they were afraid of God!

No longer did they have a desire or the ability to live righteously or to please the Lord. They began behaving as the guilty, unrighteous, sinful, spiritually dead people that they had become. They allowed evil into their lives and death came with it!

As part of God’s curse, the nature of all their offspring would be corrupt as well; this includes you and me. Every descendent of Adam and Eve is born in a sinful condition. The Apostle Paul explained how Adam’s sin affected all mankind in his letter to the Romans (chapter 5):

Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin. (v. 12)

By the one man’s offense many died. (v. 15)

Through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation. (v. 18)

By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners. (v. 19)

In various places throughout the Bible, there is an emphasis on mankind being spiritually dead. Matthew, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, details a conversation between Jesus and a young disciple about the man’s need to leave everything and follow Jesus. In this exchange, Jesus communicated that mankind is spiritually dead:

Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:21-22)

At first glance, Jesus’ statement may seem a bit harsh, insensitive, and even confusing. However, Jesus was not speaking to a man with a dying father. At the time, it was common to put off any life-changing decisions until after one’s father died and the inheritance received. This young disciple’s request was merely a delaying tactic.

So what did Jesus mean when he said, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead”? Two meanings are inherent in this statement. First, when Jesus calls someone to follow him, he demands immediate action. A person should not allow anything to keep him or her from the new life Jesus is offering.

Secondly, Jesus’ statement confirms that mankind is spiritually dead. It is obvious that a physically dead person cannot do anything, including planning and carrying out a funeral. Therefore, Jesus could not have been talking about a physically dead person in this verse. He was referring to a spiritually dead individual.

In the following verses, Paul is addressing a group that had been saved from this spiritually dead condition. Notice that he uses the past tense here. His point is to remind them of their (and his) former condition.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind…we were dead in our trespasses. (Ephesians 2:1, 3, 5)

(Bold emphasis added)

Let us look at these verses more closely to see what they mean. The Apostle Paul said, “…you were dead in trespasses and sins.” He did not mean that they had been physically dead. He is referring to their having been spiritually dead, because of their sins. Everyone born is in this condition due to our relationship to Adam.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalms 51:5)

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

A spiritually dead person cannot do anything good according to God’s standard of righteousness. This is clear in the verses above. Paul makes a point of telling the Ephesians that they were previously “by nature children of wrath” “like the rest of mankind.” If you are like me, you want to know what it means to be “by nature children of wrath” since it applies to all the rest of mankind.

Descendants of Adam, and that is all of us, are born with a corrupt, sinful nature. We inherited Adam’s corrupt nature in the same way a child inherits a parent’s hair color or eyes. According to the Bible, everyone remaining in this condition (spiritually dead) at their physical death will be judged by God for the sin committed during their lifetime and will receive just punishment, or the wrath of God. For this reason, Paul describes mankind as “children of wrath.”

We are in deep trouble. You may think this is unfair. Is it?

You and Me

Adam sinned, so why should you and I be condemned for what he did?

Adam was responsible for sin entering the world even though he was not the first to sin, Eve was. God placed Adam as the “federal head” representing all of mankind, and he failed. If given the opportunity, you may think you would have done better. However, you would have failed also, as is evidenced by the sin in your life now.

The bottom line is this: you sin and you will be judged according to your sin, not Adam’s or anyone else’s. You and I are condemned because we both sin and the penalty for sin is death and eternal suffering.

This world is God’s world. He created it and all that is in it. He is sovereign over everything and he is entitled to make the laws and the punishment for breaking them. God is good, perfect, righteous, just, loving, longsuffering, kind, and a whole host of other characteristics.

God is also the judge. As I said before, when God dispenses judgment, there are no mistakes, no misjudgments, and no injustice. It is perfect, because he is perfect.

Now that we know God will judge mankind according to his perfect nature, how do we know what that perfect nature requires of us? In other words, how do we know if we are doing something wrong? How do we know how bad we are, really?

God does not leave us guessing, he spelled it out for us in his law contained in the first five books of the Bible. It makes sense that we need to find out something about God’s law. Keep reading.

…and to God, the judge of all, (Hebrews 12:23)

Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, I will deal with you according to the anger and envy that you showed because of your hatred against them. And I will make myself known among them, when I judge you. (Ezekiel 35:11)

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? (Genesis 18:25b)

The Law and God’s Standard

Most people think they are relatively good. They try to live their life as best they can in the circumstances life gives them. The problem with this thinking is the word, relatively. People compare themselves to other people and often convince themselves that they are not bad when compared to others; or relatively speaking.

For example, you may have never murdered anyone so you are definitely better than a murderer. You may have never robbed a bank so you have to be better than a bank robber. Of course, you have sinned, but nothing very bad! Murderers and bank robbers should definitely be punished. However, you are not that bad.

Do you see yourself in this example? Most would agree that they sin. Who has not lied or perhaps stolen a piece of candy as a child, or done something selfish that caused harm to another? “But,” you say, “these are little sins. Surely God will not punish me eternally for something so minor?” Besides, “How do I know how good I have to be in order to avoid God’s punishment? Where does God draw the line?”

God’s standard is perfection and we must live perfectly in order to avoid the penalty of sin. Yet, we do not live perfectly, do we? In fact, we cannot. God gave us his law so we could see just how imperfect we are. Think about that. This is particularly important:

The purpose of the law is to show us how sinful we are.

Put another way, God did not give us the law in order to provide a way for us to be saved from sin. No, he gave us the law to show us how sinful we really are! We can never live up to the law of God. Because of Adam’ sin and God’s curse, our natures are corrupt and we do not have the capability to keep the law.

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them. Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:10-11)

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:21)

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Romans 8:7)

How much of the law must you break in order to be guilty in God’s courtroom? Just one. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command by eating the forbidden fruit and they were condemned. This single act of disobedience brought judgment to them and a curse on the entire earth and everything in it. God is serious about holiness, righteousness, and justice!

Furthermore, sin is not just outward behavior. Jesus clarified the impossibility of keeping the law by stating, “…everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

Sin happens in the heart even before any action is taken, making us guilty before the righteous judge. This principle applies to every law God gave us, not just lust and adultery. God’s standard is high. In fact, it is perfection, and it is based on his holy nature. Who can live up to this standard?

The situation gets worse; the Bible says,

“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2:10)

This is straight forward, but in other words, if I live by the law and fail in even one point of it, I will be judged as guilty of violating the entire law.

The Bible is clear that every person is guilty of sinning against God, and the law exposes how bad of a sinner we are. Everyone is guilty of the entire law, is already spiritually dead, and one day will die physically. Then what happens? Will something happen to you after you die, or is physical death the end?

God’s Judgment – the Second Death

The Bible states that after physical death, everyone will be judged according to the law and will receive the penalty of eternal separation from God in hell. This judgment is unavoidable for those under the law, and is referred to as the “second death” in Scripture.

Alone, mankind has no way of escaping the coming judgment of God. On the other hand, God is loving, kind, and forgiving, right? Does not God forgive sin? Can’t he look the other way or declare a person forgiven just because he wants to? After all, he is God. He can do anything he wants, right? This may be a surprise to you, but, no, God cannot do just “anything”. God cannot just dismiss sin and its consequences. Look at this example.

Suppose a stranger robs and murders someone in your family. Since there are witnesses to the crime, the police easily capture the suspect and bring him before the judge. At the trial, the evidence is presented and the man is found guilty of robbery and murder; there is no doubt. The criminal admits to his crimes and apologizes to the judge and your family for robbing and murdering the person you love. Feeling generous, the judge decides to forgive the convicted murderer and set him free. He is completely free to go; no punishment is required. Is this justice? No, because the law demands that crimes be punished! The actions of this judge are an injustice. People may make mistakes when dispensing justice, but God always gets it right.

If God overlooks a person’s sin and “forgives” him, he is violating the holiness, righteousness, and justice in his nature, which he cannot do. Sin must be punished and God will punish it. This begs the question, “Is righteousness and justice all there is to God? Where are his love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness?

Before we go any further, here is a brief summary of this article. It is imperative that it is clear in your mind.

God is holy. That means he is separate from us. He is perfect, righteous, just, and good. God is also the Creator, and everything that exists was created by him and for him. God is sovereign over everything. God is the source of all that is good and pure and he is the righteous standard. God is the lawgiver and will one day judge everyone according to the law he gave us.

Mankind was created without sin and God said it was very good. Adam sinned by eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, along with Eve. As a result, God judged them and all of creation. This brought spiritual and physical death to every person. Mankind no longer has a pure nature, but a corrupt one, unable to live up to God’s standard of perfection. God gave us his law so we could see that we are evil and doomed. Everyone is a sinner who will be judged for the sin committed in his or her lifetime. Judgment is unavoidable because God must judge sin if he is to be righteous and just.

This sums it up. Mankind is helpless to resolve our sin problem. At this point mankind is without hope and headed for an eternity of torment; a torment we all deserve. After all, we have all sinned against a holy God and the penalty for breaking even one of his laws is banishment to the lake of fire created for the devil and the fallen angels. Our only hope is that God will provide a solution.

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)

Wait a second. This verse seems to indicate that there will be people who will not be thrown into the lake of fire. Will there be people who are not punished forever? Do they avoid judgment somehow? What is this book of life? Who are the people whose names are in this book? How does one get his or her name written in this book? Is there hope after all? And what does any of this have to do with Jesus?

Divine Solutions

God did not create mankind just hoping that everything would work out when they sinned. He is the sovereign Lord, creator and sustainer of everything. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. He did not go into this without a plan. His plan was established before time began and he is carrying it out to perfection. The Bible is the historical record of the unfolding of that plan.

The Book of Life (Lamb’s Book of Life)

At the end of the last section there are people whose names are written in the book of life who will not be thrown into the lake of fire. Sometimes this book is referred to in the Bible as the Lamb’s book of life. The book of life and the Lamb’s book of life are two names for the same book. In the book of Revelation, John mentions the book of life in four separate chapters.

…the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast… (Revelation 17:8)

…and all who dwell on earth will worship it [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. (Revelation 13:8)

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)

But nothing unclean will ever enter it [heaven], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

From these verses of Scripture we learn several facts about the book of life.

  1. God wrote the names before the foundation of the world, before he created anything. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that new names are being added to the book of life; the list is complete.
  2. The people whose names are not written in the book of life will worship a false god.
  3. God will never blot out the names from the book of life.
  4. Only people whose names are in the book of life will enter heaven.
  5. Jesus will confess the names in the book of life before his Father in heaven and the angels.

The book of life is an important list of names. In a few moments you will see that the Bible describes these people as the elect of God, chosen by God before the foundation of the world to be saved from eternal punishment by offering his son, Jesus, the Lamb of God, as a sacrifice for their sins. This is a radical idea, so what compelled God to do such a thing? After all, God is not obligated to help us. We have all sinned and we deserve any punishment he mandates.

The Love of God Compels Him to Save

The Bible says a lot about God’s love. It says that God is love and his love endures forever. In the third verse below, the prophet Jeremiah says the Lord practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth because it is in these things that he delights.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1John 4:8)

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (1 Chronicles 16:34)

But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:24)

Along with God’s other attributes, love is who he is; he defines it. We know what love is by looking to God.

[NOTE: Too frequently, people misunderstand the love of God. They see God only as love and dismiss his other attributes. For them, God’s love is paramount, his most important and overriding characteristic. They believe God will not allow anyone to go to hell because, in their minds, that is unloving. However, this concept is contrary to Scripture. Why? Because God cannot act in love apart from justice. God cannot throw out justice for the sake of love. So, how can these attributes co-exist? In other words, how can a holy, righteous, just, and loving God, forgive people of their sins and remain a holy, righteous, just and loving God? Continue reading for the answer.]

The Bible tells us God’s love motivates him to save people from their sins.

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… (Ephesians 2:4-5)

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

All of the preceding verses speak of God’s love for us, and they do so in conjunction with his sending Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb for our sins so that we might have eternal life.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus living in Ephesus to remind them what God did to save them from their sins. Note how Paul stresses that God chose them and predestined them for adoption through Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world, according to his will. Notice that this occurred “before the foundation of the world” the same language used when referring to the book of life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

This is profound. These verses tell us that God, motivated by love, chose, or elected individuals to be holy and blameless before him, and he predestined these people for adoption before the foundation of the world. This was done “through Jesus Christ.” You cannot know true love apart from God and you cannot know God apart from his son, Jesus.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)

In this next section, we will delve into the Scripture to uncover God’s plan for saving his people from their sins through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. It is a beautiful story and it is the greatest story every told.

God’s Eternal Solution – Jesus

Son of God

Knowing what the Bible says about Jesus and why he was born is vital to understanding why he had to die. No other person could have done what he did; he was uniquely qualified, as you will soon see. So who is Jesus and what did he do that no other person could?

The apostle John referred to Jesus as the Word and light. The significance of this statement and the entire passage below is that it tells us Jesus is eternal (God) and he became flesh (he was born into the human race as a man).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”)

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:1-18)

Son of Man / Savior

The Bible records the birth of Jesus (the eternal Word and light) in several places. Each detail is important in understanding why Jesus was born and why he is uniquely qualified to save his people from their sins. Here is the account written by the Apostle Matthew.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

(Bold emphasis added)

When Matthew, a close disciple of Jesus, wrote the words above, he announced to the world the birth of the Messiah, the One sent from heaven “to save his people from their sins,” those whose names are written in the book of life. Before Jesus was born, God told us why he would be born. What an exciting time. The arrival of Jesus was the beginning of the greatest revelation of God to man that the world has ever seen.

[NOTE: The Bible does not teach that God had a sexual relationship with Mary in order to produce a son, Jesus. This is offensive to Christians. The Holy Spirit of God caused Mary to be pregnant supernaturally, and the preexistent Word (Son of God) was born into the human race. For that reason the Scripture reads, “…they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).]

What can we learn from the passage above? While there are many truths within these few paragraphs, the following four facts are pertinent to our immediate discussion.

  1. Jesus was born of a virgin woman, impregnated by the Holy Spirit through a non-sexual union. This was a unique circumstance. No other person was born without an earthly father. The virgin birth speaks of Jesus’ divinity because he had no human father, only a Heavenly Father. If Jesus had been born of a human father, he would have inherited Adam’s sin nature, as did the rest of mankind. Since his Father is God, he had no sin nature and was uniquely qualified for the work God sent him to do.
  2. The birth of Jesus was a direct fulfillment of prophecy. The prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Jesus seven hundred years before his birth (Isaiah 7:14). There are more than 300 other prophesies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled by Jesus.
  3. The name Immanuel was given to Jesus by God through his prophet Isaiah. The name means “God with us,” and it is another reference to Jesus’ divinity.
  4. An angel of the Lord announced that he was to be called Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins.

The purpose of the son of God coming to earth as a man was to save his people from their sins.

God Commands Us to Listen to Jesus

Luke, another of the Apostles, described the following event in his Gospel account. Jesus, along with Peter, John and James went up on the mountain to pray. The three men with Jesus fell asleep, but awoke and found Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah (Moses and Elijah died many years prior to this event, but through a miracle they were present there that day). Moses and Elijah departed and a cloud overshadowed the remaining men, causing them to be frightened. Then God spoke to them from the cloud.

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35)

Understandably, this encounter with God was astonishing to the disciples, and the Bible says they did not tell anyone what they had seen until a later time. However, it was clear to them that Jesus is the Son of God and they were to listen to him.

Jesus Talks about His Mission

Since God told the disciples, and us, to listen to Jesus, we should listen to what Jesus said. Jesus spoke often of the reasons he left heaven and became a man, leaving us no doubt as to his purpose. Listed below are just a few of the statements Jesus made about who he is and why he was born. Of course, the Bible is full of the words of Jesus; however, for our discussion we will look at the following.

[Note: Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man” more than any other name.]

Jesus came to give eternal life:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

Jesus came to save people from their sins and to bring them from darkness into light:

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:44-50)

Jesus came to serve and to give his life on behalf of many:

…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus came to make a way for people to know and worship God the Father:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)

Jesus came to bear witness to the truth; everyone who listens to him is of the truth:

…For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. (John 18:37)

(Bold emphasis added)

The Father is seeking true worshipers to worship him in spirit and truth. Jesus said he is a witness to the truth. In fact, Jesus described himself as “the way, and the truth, and the life”. The people whose names are written in the book of life, his elect, are “of the truth,” and they listen to what he says, and the Father is saving them from their sins. In other words, he is making true worshipers of the elect, chosen from before the foundation of the world.

The people who listen to Jesus are “of the truth”. Those who do not listen are not of the truth.

Jesus confronted a group of religious leaders, who are not of the truth, in the following exchange.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. (John 8:42-47)

These are very important words. Jesus tells these men that the reason they do not believe him is that they are of their father the devil. The reason they do not understand is that they are not of the truth. They are not of God. Are you listening?

Jesus Proclaims that He is the Messiah

During Jesus’ ministry, he clearly explained who he is. A group of religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus because of his statement to them that he is God and the Messiah. They accused him of blasphemy.

At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken – do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:22-38)

It is clear that Jesus asserted that he is both God and the Messiah.

Many of the religious leaders were not willing to accept that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) sent from God. When he said, “I and the Father are one,” they had no doubt as to what he was saying, they just did not believe it, and they picked up stones to stone him to death.

Jesus then told them to look at his works, they are evidence that he is from God. Still they did not believe him. Jesus informed them that their unbelief was because they “are not part of his flock.” Here Jesus used the metaphor of a flock of sheep to describe those who are of the truth, the people listed in the book of life. The sheep who are of his flock know his voice and they follow him. He gives them eternal life and they will never perish. Jesus goes on to explain that his Father gives them to him and no one will snatch them from the Father’s hand.

In Jesus’ own words, we are told that he was sent into the world by his Father to be a light, bear witness to the truth, save sinners, seek and save the lost, and to offer his life a ransom for many. He came to accomplish the works that the Father sent him to do, including seeking his lost sheep (the elect) and giving them eternal life. Jesus did it all under the authority of his father in heaven.

How did Jesus accomplish his Messianic purpose of saving the lost sheep of his flock?

Jesus, the Sacrificial Lamb of God

We read earlier that John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. One day while John was talking to the crowds, he saw Jesus coming, and he shouted out to them:

…and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

In his introduction of Jesus to the world, twice John declared that Jesus is the Lamb of God. On the second occasion, John said it together with the phrase, “who takes away the sin of the world.” In a simple statement, John answered who Jesus is, what he would do, and how he would do it.

Jesus is the Messiah, he will take away the sins of the world, and he will do it by sacrificing himself as the Lamb of God. The Lamb of God title is a direct reference to the atoning work he would accomplish through his death on the cross. From the very beginning of his ministry on earth, Jesus never left any doubt that his mission was to save his people from their sins by offering himself as a sacrificial lamb, dying in the place of his chosen people. He paid the penalty of death on their behalf.

By saying that it would have an effect on the sins of the world, John is declaring the extent of Jesus’ work. God’s forgiveness is to be extended to every people, Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) alike. The scope of what Jesus came to do will be felt worldwide.

Scripture is clear that Jesus, the Lamb of God, died in the place of the elect and after being buried, God resurrected him from the dead, proclaiming victory over sin and death, and declaring his chosen ones righteous through Jesus.

Several years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, an ancient city located in modern-day Turkey, and explained to them who Jesus is and what he did for them when he died on the cross.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:8-15)

The preceding passage tells us that Jesus is God by stating, “For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” His divine nature is what qualified him to pay the penalty of sin for us. He was perfect and without sin. He is God and man; God’s lamb.

Jesus was buried after his crucifixion and then raised from the dead by God three days later. The Bible states that we are spiritually dead, but God raises us from our spiritual death by sharing in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead through faith.

God makes us alive, forgives us of all our sins, and cancels the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands by nailing it to the cross.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:46-48)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (1 Corinthians 5:7b)

For in him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:19-23)

Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:1-5)

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith – just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” – so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:1-14)

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Did Jesus Have to Die?

For three years, Jesus taught the multitudes the things of God. He healed the sick, raised the dead, made the blind to see, made the lame to walk, and many other things.

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

After three years of ministering to the people, the time for Jesus’ death approached. Jesus retreated to Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem to pray, along with his disciples. These are the last recorded words of Jesus before he was betrayed into the hands of those who would kill him. Carefully read what he says.

And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:37-46)

Jesus was about to be betrayed by a close associate and given into the hands of people who would kill him. He was troubled and sorrowful, “even to death.” He knew the horror that was about to take place and he prayed a very emotional prayer to his Father in heaven. Referring to his death as “this cup”, three times he asks his Father if there is any way that it could pass. “Father, if it be possible,” he says, “let this cup pass from me.”

Jesus knew his future, and he asked his Father if there was any way to avoid it. While Scripture does not give us the words of the Father, we know by Jesus’ response what the answer was; he must die. Jesus said, “…not as I will, but as you will” and “…your will be done.” In perfect obedience to his Father, Jesus went to the cross to die for the sins of his people, according to the plan made before the foundation of the world.

Some might argue that God could have planned to redeem his people using other means, but Jesus’ prayer excludes this possibility. Jesus asked the question and God answered him. There was no other way.

Through the Bible, God provides us his story of redemption. When we sin against God, he owes us nothing, except judgment and wrath. However, it also shows us that he is a God of love, mercy, grace, and hope, by choosing to pay the penalty on behalf of those he chose before the foundation of the world. These would be adopted into his eternal family, and become his children. This is why Jesus had to die. Because God loves us and it brings him glory to save us.

Summary

Everyone sins, and according to the righteousness and justice of God, we all deserve death and eternal punishment in hell. After death, God will judge people who have lived their life under the law, and they will be found guilty.

However, God’s love compelled him to save some and he sent the Lamb of God, Jesus, to die for their sins. He paid their penalty and died in their place. By grace, God no longer sees these people as sinners, but as people who have lived perfectly according to the law. The righteousness of Jesus has been given to them when they believe and accept by faith what he has done for them on the cross. They will not be judged by the law, because they live by faith that God has saved them from their sins. Scripture says they have been justified in the eyes of God. Here is what the Bible says about it:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:19-26)

Those who live by faith in Jesus are no longer under condemnation of the law. Jesus fulfilled every aspect of the law and imputes his righteousness to those who believe in him.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

Is your name in the book of life?

Do you want it to be? Scripture tells us that no one seeks after God. We are spiritually dead and can do nothing spiritual. On the other hand, salvation is God’s work. God is seeking out men and women “to worship him in spirit and in truth.” God will make you spiritually alive, but you must come to him on his terms, not yours. What are his terms? Have faith in God the Father and believing in his son Jesus.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:8-10)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-7)

If you believe that Jesus is God’s Son, sent from heaven to pay the penalty for your sins, then it is a good indication you are “of the truth” and your name is in the book of life.

God has never turned away anyone who comes to him in faith through Jesus.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

God tells us that in order to have eternal life we must believe in his Son. What does that mean, “believe in his Son?” This type of belief means that we accept Jesus as the Messiah and by faith trust that he died for our sins. We commit our lives to him and obey all that he commands us to do.

If you want to know if your name is in the book of life, accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior by faith. God says he will give you eternal life and adopt you into the Kingdom of God. This is why Jesus came. This is why Jesus had to die.


1. R. C. Sproul. The Holiness of God (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1985), p. 40.