Answering Islam Email Dialogs
Topic: Is ‘Jesus dying in our place’ consistent with Justice?
Received: 5 December 2004
May we all be led to the right path! Aameen
I would like to know, how will u explain the term Justice in light of the statement that "Jesus, peace be upon him, died in your place for your sins. Does this mean, that i will not be held responsible or for that matter i will not be made accountable for all the wrong doings I might commit during my life time? The killer, who escapes being brought to book in this world will be let free hereafter only because Jesus (pbuh) has paid for his sin... I feel hard to subscribe to this view.....
Thank you for your thoughtful email. You have asked one of the most important questions in the world. Please forgive me if my response turns out to be a bit long. But I want to make my answer as clear as possible. I do hope you will read it carefully and prayerfully.
You are absolutely right that the Scriptures teach that "Jesus died in your place for your sins". This basic biblical theme is rooted in Gods perfect justice and in Gods perfect love. Let me explain.
The theme of GOD'S JUSTICE echoes throughout the Scriptures of the Bible. In fact, the terms justice, justified, righteous, righteousness, holy and holiness are found more than 1300 times in the Bible. The Scripture teaches that SIN (doing our own thing, defiance against God) deserves DEATH. The Bible calls this: "the law of sin and death." The two cannot be separated. The meaning of the word "death" is "separation" (which has physical, spiritual and eternal aspects). Way back in the Garden, God told Adam, "If you eat of the fruit of this one tree, you will surely die." God did not want man to be like a robot, which is why He gave Him the freedom to choose. Adam chose to disobey His Creator. At face value, perhaps what Adam did was "no big deal." After all, it was just a bite of fruit! But behind the scene, Adam was doing his own thing, not respecting Gods word. God calls this SIN. God's justice demanded that even just one sin exclude Adam and Eve forever from His presence! God would not go back on His word: The penalty for sin is DEATH and eternal separation from God!
Praise God, there is another theme which runs throughout Scripture! It is the theme of GOD'S LOVE. But it is a love and mercy that in no way contradicts His justice. From the very day that man first disobeyed his Creator, God, in keeping with His eternal plan, gave to mankind a special law that would maintain justice (sin being punished with death), while offering love and mercy. In the Torah this law is referred to as: "the law of the sin offering" or "the law of the sacrifice." God would accept the blood of an innocent animal as a death-payment for guilty sinners the result being that the person's sins would be atoned for (covered) by the blood of the substitutionary sacrifice. Atonement simply means covering. "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement (a covering for sin) for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for ones life." (Torah, Leviticus 17:11)
Thus, for thousands of years, those who trusted God offered up innocent, flawless lambs on altars as sin offerings. This is what God required. The one bringing the lamb would place his hand on the head of the lamb showing that the persons sin was being transferred to the lamb. The lamb then had to diebecause the punishment for sin is death. The lamb died in the place of the man. This was how God punished sin without punishing people. And this was how people showed that they believed in God and respected His standard of justice. All the prophets and those who trusted God and respected His plan, came to God in this way. The prophets also prophesied that God would one day send into the world His own perfect "Lamb", i.e. the Messiah, who would give His life as the perfect and final Sacrifice for sin.
Thus, at the time appointed by God, after thousands of years of animal sacrifices, and hundreds of prophecies (Old Testament), God sent the Messiah (New Testament). Gods own pure and perfect Word "became flesh and dwelt among us ..." (John 1:14) Thus, Jesus the Messiah came to die in our place, for our sins. That is why, for example, at the very beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry, the prophet John (Yahya) pointed to Jesus and told the nearby crowd, "Look! the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Injil, John 1:29). Jesus blood would not only cover sin, it would remove it completely. Gods justice would be completely satisfied. Does that make sense?
Jesus came to fulfill the symbolism of the millions of animal sacrifices described in the Old Testament Scriptures. That is why, in the Injil, we read: "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’" (Matthew 16:21-23) Like so many today, Peter and the rest of the disciples had not yet grasped why it was necessary that Jesus be crucified and shed His blood. They had not yet understood the full meaning of Gods basic law: "In fact ... without the shedding of blood (death payment) there is no forgiveness (of the sin debt)." (Hebrews 9:22)
The night before Jesus was crucified, He explained to His disciples that He would shed His blood as the ultimate and final sacrifice, the "blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Injil, Matthew 26:28) Thus, precisely as the prophets and Jesus Himself had predicted, Jesus willingly shed His blood on the cross as the final and perfect sacrifice for sin. He completely satisfied "the law of sin and death" and "the law of the sin offering." Just as lambs died on altars in the place of those who believed God in Old Testament times, so Jesus died in our place as Gods perfect, sinless "Lamb". The Injil tells us that, just before Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross, He cried with a loud voice, "It is finished!" In Greek, it is one word, "Tetelestai!" This word can also be translated as, "Paid in full!" (It was a term Greek businessmen would write on the receipts of customers who had paid their bill in full.)
God accepted Jesus' sufferings and death as a sufficient and full payment for our sin-debt, and He gave proof to that by raising Jesus from the dead on the third day. Even before Jesus Christ (Christ is the Greek word for Messiah) came, God's way of forgiveness and salvation for sinners was rooted in the fact that the Messiah would one day pay mankind's sin penalty in full. In God's plan, all of human history points either forward or backwards to Christ and His sacrifice. However, only those who believe God and His plan of salvation will be forgiven and judged as righteous before God. This is another theme found throughout Scripture. Only God can declare a sinner as righteous. And He does NOT judge us as righteous on the basis of what we do for Him, but on the basis of faith in what He has done for us.
That is what the Bible clearly teaches. So now let me get to the second part of your question: WHERE IS THE JUSTICE IN SUCH A PLAN???
Many people think that God will excuse their wrong-doings on the basis of a certain accumulation of right-doings. You know, the typical weigh scales concept, which goes something like this, "If my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds, then God will welcome me into paradise..." Such a concept is NOT found anywhere in the Scriptures of the Bible. Yet many religions teach just that! (Did you know that this "scales-concept" of Judgment Day was already believed and taught 4000-years ago in Egyptian polytheism?) Now it is my turn to ask the question (To all who hold to the "scales" view of Judgment Day): WHERE IS THE JUSTICE IN SUCH A PLAN???
Let me illustrate. If a murderer stands condemned before a judge, but then the judge sets the murderer free just because the murderer has a history of doing many good deeds, would that judge be just or unjust? Can any amount of good works pay for the crime of murder? Most of us would agree that any judge who sets a murderer free based on some good deeds that the murderer has done or intends to do ... well, we would label that judge: "unjust!" A just judge must not allow crime to go unpunished.
Now think about God Almighty. If He is just, He must be completely just. If He were not completely just, then He would not be just at all. Thankfully, as you and I know, God is a just and righteous Judge. The idea that He is so "great" that He can ignore sin is man's perversion. God is holy and righteous. He will never compromise His own laws. His justice is so great and perfect that He demands that every sin be punished. No exceptions! The "if-my-good-works-outweigh-my-bad-works" technique is not used in any earthly court ... so why would anyone think that such an unjust system would be found in Heaven's court??? God will not ignore "the law of sin and death." Like it or not, God's penalty for sin is DEATH and eternal separation from Him. God never said that the penalty for sin is "doing good works." God's law from the beginning is: "The soul who sins is the one who will die." (Ezekiel 18:4)
A single sin before God is like a drop of deadly poison in a glass of tea. The entire glass of tea is ruined. Adding more hot water to it will not help. Neither can good works solve our sin problem. The sin is still there. God's justice is even stricter than man's justice. God demands punishment for every sin, no matter how "small". Because God is just, He must punish sin. That's the BAD NEWS!
But God has GOOD NEWS (i.e. Gospel/Injil means "Good News") for us! This good news is rooted in the fact that God is not only 100% just and righteous, but that He is also 100% loving and merciful. 3000 years ago, the prophet David wrote: "I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will sing praise." (Psalm 101:1) Notice the balance between "love and justice." "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you." (Psalm 89:14) God's justice demands that all sin be punished, but God's love has provided a way to punish sin, without punishing the sinner! Praise be to God!
God, being the righteous Judge that He is, always does things in a way consistent with Himself and His own laws. Did you know that there is one thing that God cannot do? The Scripture says, "It is impossible for God to lie! ... God is not a man, that He should lie! ... He cannot deny Himself!" (Hebrews 6:18; Numbers 23:19; 2 Timothy 2:13) Oddly, some people think God is "so great" that He can abrogate and contradict His own laws. Such have a wrong concept of their Creator. God is faithful. He cannot lie. We can trust Him to do all that He promises to do!
That is why, after thousands of years of prophecies and symbolic animal sacrifices (Old Testament) and other powerful symbols (such as the Tabernacle), it should have come as no surprise to the world that God sent down the Messiah just as He promised to do. The Messiah, who was the very Word and Spirit of God, took on human flesh. His name "Yeshua" ("Jesus" in English) means "God saves". Jesus, the sinless One, came to bear willingly the death-penalty for your sin and mine. He became the perfect and final sin offering. In short, this is how God has shown us His love and mercy, without compromising His justice and righteousness.
Let me give another "judge illustration". Imagine a thief standing before a judge. The man has been found guilty of stealing $100,000. If the judge were to say, "You seem repentant, you can go free! Don't worry about the stolen money!" we might say, "Well, that sure was merciful, but what about justice? What about paying back the money he stole?" Mercy is wonderful, but it must be rooted in justice! Suppose instead, that the judge sentenced the thief to two years in prison and requiring that the thief pay back the entire debt with interest. We might say, "This judge is truly just! He showed the criminal no mercy!" But, if you are the criminal, you would not be particularly happy to be sentenced by such a judge! But now imagine that the judge, having sentenced the man, steps down from his tribunal seat and says, "I know that you will never be able to make pay back what you have stolen. But I want to show you mercy. I will go to prison in your place for two years, and then I will pay back your debt in full. Do you accept my offer?" What could be said of such a judge? Would we not say that such a judge is both completely just and incredibly merciful?
Such a combination of justice and mercy is almost unheard of among humans, and if it were, some criminals would be too proud to accept such an offer. Nonetheless, this is the kind of justice and mercy that God has shown to a sinful world. Think of it! God Himself came down to earth took on a human body, and paid your sin debt (and mine) with His own blood. We can talk more about this next time if you like, but please remember: God is not limited like we are. He can be in heaven and on earth at the same time. The "Word becoming flesh" was also predicted thousands of years beforehand by the prophets. God simply did what He promised to do.
Whether you believe or refuse to believe what God has done for you will not change the fact that HE DID THIS FOR YOU. But this awesome act of love and mercy will do you no good unless you accept it. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24) What Jesus did for us by His substitutionary death and victorious resurrection will only benefit those who trust God and His plan. God wants each of us to admit that there is nothing that we can do to escape the eternal judgment that awaits us, and to believe that Jesus' death on the cross was a sufficient payment for our sins. Such trust is true submission to God. To not admit that I am a helpless sinner in need of His righteous plan of salvation is the opposite of submission (rebellion).
You may have heard the phrase "born again." (Read John 3) This is significant - because when we believe God and His message the Scripture tells us that we are "born again." Our spirit is renewed. Now, we will still die physically, but our spirit (the "real us") will never die! We will not go to hell; we will go to heaven! Salvation is a gift that God provides, like a ticket to ride the bus. To get the ticket, you just need to take it. It has already been paid for in full. God allows us the choice to either take it, or to say, "No thanks, I'll pay my own way." There is a problem with that last statement, however. The only way we can "pay" for our sin, is to die (physically), and then be separated forever from God in the lake of fire (eternally). But for the one who accepts Gods provision, his sin will not be counted against him. Because it has already paid for!
I need to stop (sorry this is so long!), but before I do, let me address briefly a third part of your question. You seem to be asking: "According to the Bible, can a person simply believe in Jesus and His sacrifice, and then just go on living in sin?"
Another aspect to being "born again" is that when we believe God's way of salvation, He changes our hearts. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, while I can still commit sin, I no longer see sin as a desirable thing, but as an awful thing something to be avoided! I now find that I WANT to please HIM and to do HIS will. Before I believed the Good News about Jesus and His substitutionary death for me, I was a slave to sin. Now I am a child of God and want to serve Him and live righteously.
And to respond to the fourth and final part of your question... yes, even murderers can be completely forgiven! Jesus was crucified between two murderers. One of the two believed on the Lord Jesus in the last hours of his life, and, consequently, Jesus promised him, "Today, you will be with Me in Paradise!" What good news! God, the JUST and MERCIFUL Judge, has provided a way for the worst of sinners to be forgiven and accepted by Him! Of course, sin has its consequences. The "born again" murder still suffered and died (physically) for his crimes. Nor would he would not receive the same level of rewards that a believer who has faithfully served the Lord for many years... which raises another topic:
The Scripture describes two different Days of Judgment:
1.) THE JUDGMENT FOR BELIEVERS is for those who truly believed God's way of Salvation. There is no question of whether they will go to heaven or hell. They are already in heaven forever. They are saved and safe. However, they will receive different degrees of eternal reward or loss. For example, a believer who lived faithfully for the Lord will be rewarded in special ways, while the less faithful believer "will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (1 Cor. 3)
2.) THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT is for those who died in their sins, without accepting God's way of Salvation. They will receive different degrees of punishment. "Then I saw a great white throne and him (the Lord Jesus) who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. ...If anyones name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20) You do not want to a part of this judgment!
Though I feel like I have only begun to answer your question, I must stop here for now. There are literally thousands of verses I could bring before you (of the 31,000 verses in the Bible!) in answer to your important question. If you want a more complete answer than the one I have given, you will need to take time to read the Bible for yourself. You may also want to read a book called: "ALL THAT THE PROPHETS HAVE SPOKEN". This well-illustrated book brings together more than 1000 key verses from Scripture and shows how Jesus' death on the cross for sinners fits together perfectly with everything the prophets wrote.
For free download: http://goodseed.com/theprophetsenglish.aspx
For purchase: http://www.goodseed.com/usa/store.aspx
God will lead you to the right path as you seek after Him and His truth with all your heart!
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