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“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25).
Until Adam sinned, there was no need for a resurrection. Yet, for man to learn the devastating consequences of sin, God gave Adam an opportunity to choose be- tween right and wrong. But for the lesson to be learned and benefited from, there was a need to provide for a resurrection.
Jehovah God formed Adam in Eden “of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7 ASV). Then He put the man whom he had formed into the garden on the east side of Eden. And he caused two kinds of tree to grow there, “the tree of life … and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Then Jehovah God said, “Of every [kind of] tree of the garden thou shalt surely begin to eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely begin to die” (Genesis 2:9, 16-17 RVIC).1
The third highest being in the universe, named “Morning Star” (Hebrew, Heylel, Greek, Eosphoros, Latin, Lucifer) had been appointed as the guardian cherub over Eden. But then he tried to make himself like the Most High. By using a serpent (or perhaps material- izing as a serpent) he promised Eve that then their eyes would “be opened, and ye shall be as God [or, as gods], knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5 ASV). Thus were our first par- ents ensnared into sin.
Confronted by Jehovah God, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and God pronounced the curse upon this serpent (now Satan, or Enemy): Enmity between Satan and the woman, and between Satan’s seed (man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2) and her seed (ultimately Jesus Christ, and probably including his faithful Church). Satan would bruise the heel of the “seed of the woman,” but the latter will bruise the head of — will slay — Satan. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20).
God explained the natural and inevitable consequence of sin: To Eve it would not be pure joy in childbearing, but pain. To Adam it would be sweat until he returned to the ground (Hebrew, adamah), “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Nothing was said about torture after death. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
But the Psalmist asks, “What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?” “Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? Shall they that are deceased arise and praise thee?” “The dead praise not Jehovah [Jah], neither any that go down into silence” (Psalms 30:9, 88:10, 115:17 ASV).
The Perfect Plan
Let each of us pause: What can one think of that God could do to solve the problem? For man to learn the catastrophic consequence of sin, he had to die. But how can one profit long-term from this lesson? Adam, and all his progeny, were condemned to death under his one sin. Even if a perfect man could be found to take Adam’s place in death, he could ransom from death Adam (and hence all descended from him), but then this one more worthy than Adam would be dead.
“God … created all things … according to a Plan of the Ages, which he formed for the Anointed Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:9,11 Emphatic Diaglott). So we leave the planning to God, try to learn of that plan from His word, and then try to cooperate with its outworking.
Since the expulsion from Eden, men, and then angels, fathered violent sons (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6). Ten generations to the Flood showed man and angel that their strongest efforts gen- erated only a world that was corrupt. “And Jehovah said, My Spirit[kind] shall not strive in man[kind] for ever, in their going astray they are flesh: his days shall be yet a hundred twenty years” (Genesis 6:1-7 RVIC).
Ten more generations bring us to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by which time Nimrod and his successors had turned much of the world to violence and slavery, and away from Jehovah God.
God then gave the Law through Moses as mediator to let the Israelites see that they them- selves could not keep a perfect law, to see that they were sinful and in need of change — to see their need for a Redeemer (Galatians 3:24).
God then sent the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, to begin the Gospel Age. The next two thousand years have been to develop the rest of the spiritual priesthood for the coming age — the thousand-year Kingdom of Christ — to bless all the families of the earth.
Ransom and Redemption
Priesthood has two duties: sacrifice and blessing. For Jesus Christ and his faithful Church, sacrificing is in the Gospel Age. Blessing the people will be their duty in the Millennial Age, and then to all eternity.
The ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ to atone for the original sin of Adam is absolutely essential. It is fundamental to God’s plan of salvation. The sacrifice of the individual members of the faithful Church is essential to their spiritual development, but there is no atoning merit in their sacrifice (they have none).
Toward cancellation of, or redemption from, the Adamic sin, Paul writes: “So then as through one trespass condemnation cometh unto all men [humans, including women and children]; even so through one act of righteousness justification of life cometh unto all men [humans]. (19) For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19 RVIC).
Verse 18 says that just as the [Adamic] con- demnation comes to all humans, even so justi- fication comes to all humans (whether in the Gospel Age or the Millennial Age), although the timing is not explicit. Verse 19 gives the timing explicitly. It puts the Adamic sin and its effect on the multitudes of mankind in the past, and the making of the multitudes righteous in the future.
Again, “But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep. For since by a man cometh death, by a man cometh also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be2 made alive. But each in his own order: Christ3 the firstfruits; after that they that are Christ’s in4 his presence. Then cometh the end, whenever he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and pow- er. For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy is to be abolished, even death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26 RVIC).
The barley firstfruits were to be offered on the first day after the Sabbath (whether the Saturday Sabbath or the first day of the Passover Feast.
(2) Or, be quickened. Compare verses 36, 45, John 5:21, Romans 8:11.
(3) Or, a firstfruit Christ (or, Anointed)
(4) Or, during his presence.
In the crucifixion year they coincided). That was the very day in AD 33 that Jesus was raised from the dead. Forty-nine days later (Day 50, Pentecost) the wheat firstfruits were to be offered. That was the very day in AD 33 that the dis- ciples of Christ were first baptized with the holy Spirit. (Compare verse 23.)
Verse 21 expresses Jesus Christ’s substitu- tionary atonement: a perfect man’s life sacri- ficed for the forfeited life of Adam. Verse 22 stresses again that all who die in Adam will also be redeemed in Christ.5 The resurrected world will also be quickened in the Kingdom of Christ. That is, they will be prodded and helped along the way back to the perfection lost in Eden. This universal salvation is not uni- versal reconciliation. However, it is universal opportunity.
The resurrection will be orderly and in proper sequence: Jesus Christ and the faithful Church of the Gospel Age first (followed by the great multitude),6 then in the Millennial Age the Ancient Worthies (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc.), followed by fleshly Israel and the rest of the world.
Verse 24 adds, “Then cometh the end [con- summation; McReynolds says, completion] … when he shall have abolished all [disobedient] rule and authority and power.” All will be in harmony when God receives the Eternal Kingdom. Not only sin, but death itself will be destroyed once and for all. “Death and hell de- livered up the dead which were in them … and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:13-14).
(5) The “all” necessarily means all humanity. If all resurrected in Christ were only believers, then only believers must have died in Adam. An untenable thought.
(6) Three groups are given in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17: Bride, great multitude, and unfaithful (who alone are not resurrected).
(7) There is no explicit verb in the Greek. The nearest antecedent is three clauses earlier, and it is in Aorist ( which can be any tense of the past). The verb in the following clause is a past participle, so it is appropriate to similarly translate “having been” here.
A Ransom for All
“God our Saviour … would have all men to be saved, and come to a full knowledge of truth. For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself having7 been a man, Christ Jesus, the one having given himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times” (1 Timothy 2:3-6 RVIC).
How did God become our Saviour? He sent Jesus to become flesh; so that he might sacrifice himself on behalf of the whole human race, and thence to become the Saviour of the world. Like Abraham and Isaac, God was the planner and Jesus was the willing sacrifice; so both work together in their respective roles of being our Saviour. We should not hesitate to claim each as our Saviour.
If Jesus is “a ransom for all,” then all should be released from the enemy of death. But when the world is resurrected they will not yet be in harmony, they will need a mediator with God. Jesus is the ideal mediator between God and man. He has been a human, and now he has been raised with the same nature as God Him- self. He has been on both sides of the fence!
Jesus Christ gave himself — his human life— a ransom for all mankind. His human na- ture is the perfect substitute for fallen Adam. The testimony is borne for the faithful Church now in the Gospel Age and will be borne for the whole rest of the world in the Millennial Age. (That is why Paul says, “in its own times,” plural).
Four steps were necessary for Jesus to redeem any or all of the human race:
(1) Baptism (at the Jordan River). He needed to commit himself to the will of his Father. (He was then begotten of the holy Spirit.) (2) Crucifixion. He needed to give his flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51). “Christ also once for all died for sins” (1 Peter 3:18 Weymouth).
(3) Resurrection. “And if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17 ASV).
(4) Ascension. “Christ entered … into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24 ASV).
Jesus’ sacrificial death guarantees the resurrection. Jesus summarizes the matter: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me [in the Gospel Age], though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me [in Christ’s thousand-year Kingdom] shall never die” (John 11:25-26 ASV).
“Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin-offering, to them that wait for him, unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28 RVIC). The offering of Christ’s merit towards cancellation of sin was accomplished for the Church at Pentecost. The world still awaits the offering for sin on their behalf. That will mean their resurrection.
A Benefit to Jesus Also
Jesus poured out his life for us all, “to taste of death for every” one. But in the process the perfect one grew yet stronger in character.
We behold “Jesus … that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect [mature] through sufferings.” “Though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered” (He- brews 2:9-10, 5:8). Though Jesus was “holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners,” even this perfect man could grow yet stronger in character and obedience to the Father.
Jesus told his disciples, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished” (Luke 12:50). Baptism was not simply the immersion of Jesus at the Jordan River, but was a lifelong baptism to fur- ther strengthen character and complete him as a New Creation. Christians also are to undergo this lifelong baptism (Mark 10:38-39).
God changed the nature of the Word (Lo- gos) twice. (1) The Word had been “the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14, John 1:1-2, 1 Corinthians 8:6), “the angel of Jehovah” (Zechariah 3:1). God was the architect, and the Word was now the active agent. Through participating in creating other beings he would learn to love them. (2) The Word was made flesh (human) to provide the ransom for Adam (and hence all mankind), to learn what it is like to be strictly obedient under the severest opposition, and to learn to love even his enemies. (3) The Word was raised in the divine nature, so that he is now “the effulgence of [God’s] glory, and the very image of his substance” (Hebrews 1:3 ASV). In the economy of God’s plan, Jesus provided the res- urrection from the dead, and was in turn devel- oped to receive the nature of God Himself, the foremost of “bringing many sons unto glory.” From archangel, to human, to divine.
God used the earthly human humiliations to develop yet stronger character in Jesus, that He might raise him to the divine nature — the same nature as God Himself — to incorrup- tion and immortality. Wherefore the Psalmist says, “Thy throne is the throne of God for ever and ever: A scepter of equity is the scepter of thy kingdom” (Psalm 45:6, Hebrews 1:8 ASV, margin).
And there is a lesson for each and every one of us: “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11 ASV).