ALMOST 2,000 years ago, on the Jewish Passover of the year 33 C.E., an innocent man died so that others might live. Who was that man? He was Jesus of Nazareth. And who stand to benefit from that noble act? The entire human race. A well-known Bible verse sums up that lifesaving sacrifice: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16, King James Version.
Although many are familiar with that scripture, few really understand its meaning. They wonder: ‘Why do we need Christ’s sacrifice? How can one man’s death rescue humankind from the fate of eternal death?’ The Bible provides clear and satisfying answers to these questions.
How Death Came to Rule Over the Human Race
Some people believe that humans were created to live a short time on earth, go through trials, enjoy some happiness, and then die and move on to a better place. According to this thinking, death is part of God’s purpose for mankind. The Bible, however, shows that death afflicts humans for a different reason. It says: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) This verse shows that people die as a result of sin. Who, though, is the “one man” through whom the fatal effects of sin infected the human race?
The World Book Encyclopedia observes that most scientists believe that all humans have descended from the same source, and the Bible plainly identifies that one source—the “one man.” At Genesis 1:27, we read: “God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.” Thus the Bible states that the first human pair were the crowning glory of Almighty God’s creation.
The Genesis record gives further details of human life after Jehovah God created the first human. Significantly, in that entire account, God made no mention of death except as a consequence of disobedience. (Genesis 2:16, 17) He wanted humans to live on a beautiful paradise earth, happy and healthy forever. He did not want them to suffer the effects of old age and eventual death. How, then, did death become master over all mankind?
Genesis chapter 3 records how the first human pair made the willful decision to disobey their Life-Giver, Jehovah God. Consequently, God carried out the sentence that he had made known to them in advance. He told the man: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) True to God’s word, the two disobedient humans eventually died.
The damage, however, reached far beyond the first human pair. Their disobedience dashed the prospect of perfect life that their offspring would have enjoyed. Jehovah included those yet unborn humans in his purpose when he told Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) In time, the human family would fill the earth and enjoy an immeasurably happy life without dying. But their forefather Adam—the “one man”—sold them as slaves to sin, with death as the inevitable destiny. The apostle Paul, a descendant of the first man, wrote: “I am fleshly, sold under sin.”—Romans 7:14.
Just as vandals have damaged priceless works of art in recent times, Adam, by sinning, seriously damaged God’s marvelous creation—humankind. Adam’s children had children of their own, then grandchildren, and so on. Each successive generation was born, grew up, produced offspring, and then died off. Why have they all died? Because they have all descended from Adam. The Bible states: “By one man’s trespass many died.” (Romans 5:15) Sickness, old age, a tendency to do wrong things, and death itself are sorry consequences of Adam’s betrayal of his own family. That family includes all of us.
In his letter to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote about the pitiful condition of imperfect humans, including him, and the frustrating struggle against the effects of sin. He exclaimed: “Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” A good question, is it not? Who would offer Paul—and all others who yearn for it—rescue from enslavement to sin and death? Paul himself supplied the answer: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:14-25) Yes, our Creator has made provision to rescue us by means of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ Role in God’s Rescue of Humanity
Jesus described his role in rescuing humankind from deadly enslavement to sin. He said: “The Son of man came . . . to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28, King James Version) How does Jesus’ life serve as a ransom? How does his death benefit us?
The Bible describes Jesus as being “without sin” and “separated from the sinners.” Throughout his life, Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s Law. (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26) Jesus’ death was, therefore, not the consequence of sin and disobedience as was Adam’s. (Ezekiel 18:4) Rather, Jesus accepted a death that he did not deserve in order that he might carry out his Father’s will to rescue mankind from sin and death. As stated above, Jesus willingly came “to give his life a ransom.” With love unmatched throughout history, Jesus willingly ‘tasted death for every man.’—Hebrews 2:9.
The life that Jesus sacrificed was an exact equivalent of the life that Adam forfeited when he sinned. What was the result of Jesus’ death? Jehovah accepted that sacrifice as “a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:6) In effect, God used the value of Jesus’ life to buy back, or redeem, the human race from slavery to sin and death.
The Bible repeatedly mentions this great act of love by man’s Creator. Paul reminded Christians that they “were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23) Peter wrote that God used, not gold or silver, but the blood of his Son to deliver Christians from their death-bound way of life. (1 Peter 1:18, 19) With Christ’s ransom sacrifice, Jehovah arranged to rescue humans from the destiny of eternal death.
Will You Benefit From Christ’s Ransom?
Regarding the far-reaching benefits of Christ’s ransom, the apostle John wrote: “[Jesus Christ] is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:2) Yes, Christ’s ransom is available to all humanity. Does that mean that everyone will automatically benefit from this priceless provision? No. Remember the rescue mentioned in the preceding article. Those trying to save the trapped miners lowered a rescue cage down to them, but each of the trapped men had to get into that cage. In a similar way, those who wish to benefit from Christ’s ransom sacrifice cannot simply wait for God’s blessing. They need to take action.
What action does God require? John 3:36 tells us: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” God requires that we have faith in Christ’s sacrifice. And there is more. “By this we have the knowledge that we have come to know [Jesus], namely, if we continue observing his commandments.” (1 John 2:3) It is clear, then, that the key to being rescued from sin and death is that we have faith in Christ’s ransom and obey Christ’s commands.
One important way to express faith in Jesus’ ransom is to show appreciation for his death by commemorating it, as he commanded. Before dying, Jesus set up a symbolic meal with his faithful apostles, and he told them: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Jehovah’s Witnesses deeply treasure their friendship with the Son of God, and they obey that command. This year, the Memorial of the death of Jesus Christ will be observed on Saturday, March 22, after sundown. We cordially invite you to attend that special meeting in obedience to Jesus’ command. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area can tell you the time and location for that event. At the Memorial you will learn more about what you need to do so that Christ’s ransom can free you from the deadly effects of Adam’s sin.
Few people today have full appreciation for the great sacrifice their Creator and his Son have made to rescue them from destruction. Those who exercise faith in it enjoy a special source of happiness. The apostle Peter wrote regarding his fellow Christians: “You exercise faith in [Jesus] and are greatly rejoicing with an unspeakable and glorified joy, as you receive the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8, 9) By developing love for Jesus Christ and faith in his ransom sacrifice, you can fill your life with joy now and look forward to being saved from sin and death.