Why Did Jesus Suffer and Die?
“Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin.”—Romans 5:12
What would you say if you were asked, “Do you want to live forever?” Most people would probably say that they want to but that they feel it is unrealistic to consider it. Death is a normal part of life, they say, the natural outcome of our existence.
Suppose, though, that the question were turned around and you were asked, “Are you ready to die?” Under normal circumstances, most people would answer no. The point? In spite of the trials and hardships we face, our normal and natural desire is to live. The Bible shows that God created humans with the desire and the will to live. In fact, it says that “he has even put eternity in their heart.”—Ecclesiastes 3:11.
The reality, though, is that humans do not live forever. So, what went wrong? Furthermore, has God done anything to remedy the situation? The Bible’s answers are heartening, and they have a direct bearing on why Jesus suffered and died.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The first three chapters of the Bible book of Genesis tell us that God set before the first human couple, Adam and Eve, the prospect of unending life and told them what they would have to do to gain it. Then the account describes how they failed to obey God and lost that prospect. The story is told simply—so simply that some are quick to dismiss it as folklore. But Genesis, like the Gospels, gives every indication of being a factual, historical record. *
What has been the result of Adam’s failure to obey? The Bible answers this way: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) By disobeying God, Adam sinned. He thus lost the prospect of endless life and eventually died. Being his descendants, we have inherited his sinful condition. As a result, we are subject to sickness, old age, and death. This explanation of why we die is in harmony with what we know today about heredity. But has God done anything to remedy the situation?
WHAT GOD HAS DONE
Yes, God made arrangements to redeem, or buy back, what Adam had lost for his descendants, namely, the prospect of endless life. How did God accomplish that?
“The wages sin pays is death,” says the Bible at Romans 6:23. This means that death is the consequence of sin. Adam sinned, so he died. Likewise, we sin and are therefore subject to sin’s wages, death. But we were born in this sinful condition through no fault of our own. So God lovingly sent his Son, Jesus, to accept ‘the wages of sin’ for us. How does this work?
Since one man, the perfect man Adam, brought sin and death on us through disobedience, a perfect man obedient even till death was needed to release us from that burden. The Bible explains it this way: “Just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one person many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) Jesus was that “one person.” He left heaven, became a perfect man *, and died in our behalf. As a result, it is possible for us to have a righteous standing with God and gain the prospect of endless life.
WHY JESUS SUFFERED AND DIED
Why, though, was it necessary for Jesus to die to accomplish this? Could not Almighty God have simply issued a decree that Adam’s descendants be allowed to live forever? He certainly had the authority to do so. But that would have disregarded his stated law that the wages of sin is death. That law is no petty rule that can be dismissed or changed for convenience. It is fundamental to true justice.—Psalm 37:28.
Had God set justice aside in this instance, people might have wondered whether he would do so in other matters as well. For example, would he befair in determining who among Adam’s offspring qualify for eternal life? Could he be trusted to keep his promises? God’s adherence to justice in working out our salvation is assurance to us that he will always do what is right.
By Jesus’ sacrificial death, God opened the way to endless life in Paradise on earth. Note Jesus’ words as recorded at John 3:16: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Jesus’ death is thus an expression not only of God’s unfailing justice but, more specially, of his great love for humans.
However, why did Jesus have to suffer and die in the painful way that was described in the Gospels? By subjecting himself to the extreme test and remaining faithful, Jesus refuted once and for all the Devil’s claim that humans would not remain loyal to God when under trial. (Job 2:4, 5) That claim might have seemed valid after Satan induced perfect Adam to sin. But Jesus—who was Adam’s perfect equivalent—remained obedient despite severe suffering. (1 Corinthians 15:45) He thus proved that Adam too could have obeyed God if he had chosen to do so. By enduring under trial, Jesus left us a model to follow. (1 Peter 2:21) God rewarded his Son’s perfect obedience, granting Jesus immortal life in heaven.
HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT
Jesus’ death really occurred. The way to unending life is open. Do you want to live forever? Jesus indicated what we need to do when he said: “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
The publishers of this magazine invite you to learn more about Jehovah, the true God, and about his Son, Jesus Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your community will be happy to assist you. You can also receive helpful information by visiting our website, www.jw.org.
^ par. 8 See “The Historical Character of Genesis,” in Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, page 922, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
^ par. 13 God’s transfer of his Son’s life from heaven to the womb of Mary caused conception, and God’s holy spirit shielded Jesus from inheriting imperfection from Mary.—Luke 1:31, 35.