The death and the resurrection of Jesus
In the fullness of the time Jesus Christ (the Son of God, who was in the bosom of the Father before He came into the world) died “for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
As for His atoning sacrifice, it was foretold centuries before by the prophet Isaiah in these terms: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:5-12). As you can see, according to the Scripture, Jesus had to die that He might make atonement for our sins through the offering of His body. Perhaps you are wondering why His sacrifice was necessary for the atonement or remission of our sins. Well, the reason was this. Divine justice – God’s holy law – requires death as the penalty for sin. God chose to bind Himself by the principle of death for sin, thus without the shedding of blood (the giving of an innocent victim) there could be no release from this penalty and no restoration to fellowship with the Holy God. That’s why according to the law sins were atoned by the blood of animals, as it is written: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11), and those animals had to be perfect and pure in order to be accepted by God. However, those atoning sacrifices (or sin offerings) were only a shadow of the perfect atoning sacrifice of the Messiah – that’s why the blood of those animal sacrifices could not take away sins –, who was the Innocent Victim, that God foreordained before the foundation of the world. So Jesus of Nazareth, being the promised Messiah, had to shed His own blood for the atonement or remission of our sins. The death of animals was not sufficient to remit our sins, because we are much greater than they in that we were created in the image of God; neither could an ordinary person suffer the penalty in our place, for each one deserves eternal death for his own sins. Only a sinless person could atone for our sins, but there was none. So God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, who existed with Him in heaven from eternity and who was pure and innocent, in order to provide a suitable substitute. Jesus Christ was without sin for He was born without sin and lived a sinless life, and thus He could be a perfect substitute. Thus God provided a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins through the death of the sinless man Jesus Christ, as John wrote: “He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10 – NIV). Jesus was the “lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:19-20) but was sacrificed in these last times for us, so that through His precious blood we might obtain the remission of our sins. His perfect sacrifice, in laying down His life for us, has fully met the holy and just requirements of God’s law. Christ suffered the penalty of sin on our behalf. God inflicted the penalty for sin on Christ, so that through His atoning death we might be forgiven and reconciled to God. He did not become a sinner, but He became the sin bearer, the sin offering, the sacrifice for our sins, as it is written: “So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28 – NKJV), and again: “For He [God] made Him [Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 – NKJV). In the light of what the Scripture teaches, therefore, the death of Jesus Christ was the manifestation of the love of God toward us.
As for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it also was foretold by God centuries before it occurred, for David said concerning the Christ: “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [Hebrew: Sheol; Greek: Hades]; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:8-11). It is evident that David did not speak of himself but of the Christ, for the patriarch David died and was buried and saw corruption; but Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead, did not see corruption. David, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne; He foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. But why was the resurrection of Jesus Christ necessary to our salvation? To answer to this question I need to speak about certain things the High Priest had to do on the day of atonement with the blood of the sacrifices he offered for his own sins and for the sins of the people of Israel. Now on that particular day the High Priest had to offer some animals to make atonement (through their blood) for his own sins and for the sins of the Israelites; here is what is written in the law of Moses: “And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat” (Leviticus 16:11-15). Now, as you can see, the blood of both animals (the bullock and the goat) had to be brought by the High Priest within the veil, that is, into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled upon the mercy seat and before it. Those sin offerings, of course, were a shadow of the sacrifice of Christ, only a shadow, for the law has a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things (Hebrews 10:1). And in fact the blood of those sacrifices, which were offered year by year, could not take away sins from the conscience of the worshipers, while the blood of Jesus, which He offered once for all for our sins, can take away sins from the conscience of those who believe in Him. But let’s go back to the place where the blood of the sin offerings had to be brought by the High Priest after the killing of the goat of the sin offering and the bull of the sin offering on the day of atonement. The law says that the blood of those sin offerings had to be brought into the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary, which was a man-made sanctuary. Therefore, as the High Priest had to bring the blood of both the bull and the goat into the Most Holy Place, so Jesus, the High Priest of good things to come, after having offered Himself as a ransom for our sins, had to enter the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary which is in heaven (which is not man-made and of which the sanctuary on earth was only a copy), not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, to obtain eternal redemption for us. So He had to enter into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us. It is evident therefore that if Jesus after His death had to enter into heaven by means of His own blood in order to finish (or to complete) His work of redemption, He had to be raised from the dead as well. And that is what happened after three days; then after forty days He was taken up into heaven at the right hand of the Father. The Scripture says: “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12 – NKJV), and again: “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:24-26 – NIV). That’s why the Scripture declares that the resurrection of Jesus took place “for our justification” (Romans 4:25), and also that if Christ has not been raised – as some say – our faith is vain and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Therefore Jesus Christ bore all our sins in His own body, and through His death we have been reconciled to God. The Just suffered for the unjust “that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). As Paul says to the saints of Colosse: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Colossians 1:19-22). So it is very evident that if a man wants to be reconciled to God he must believe in the blood of Jesus Christ, as it is written that God has set forth Jesus Christ “to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26). There is no other way for a man to be reconciled to God, I say it again, no other way. A man can be reconciled to God only through faith in Jesus Christ, for it is only by faith that a man is justified.