This is a HUGE subject, and indeed would easily fill the pages of a good book. This article however is Not a complete book – but rather is meant to shine a spotlight on the main issues surrounding the efficacious death of Jesus on the Cross. Please feel free to study the issue in more depth!
The fact that Jesus of Nazareth had to die on the cross, in order that we may have our sins forgiven and ultimately gain access to heaven, is something that challenges the mind of many.
Did Jesus really have to die? If God really was his Father could he not just forgive him – and us, without going to the extreme of death? Why not just take Jesus to the brink, like Abraham with his son Isaac? In Abrahams case God ‘cut in’ at the last moment and Isaac was saved – could God not have done this with Jesus and saved us without the death part?
These questions, and many more like them would seem legitimate – until the whole reason behind the sacrifice offering is understood in context. Once an understanding of the sacrificial offering is grasped in our tiny minds, then we may begin to understand why Jesus did have to shed his blood and die in order that we may live life to the full.
How does Jesus death save us?
Jesus had to shed his blood and die on the cross so that the Law of GOD may be satisfied “Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins” Hebrews 9:22 . Jesus had to die and shed his blood so that by accepting Him we are ‘covered’ by his sacrificial death and our sins forgiven.
The Apostle Paul explains this in great depth for the followers of Jesus at the time, who struggled to understand why the man they had followed as a leader of the Jews, could be killed on a cross in a manner befitting a common criminal – when they thought Jesus was sent by God to free them from the Roman occupation.
They never really understood that the ministry of Jesus was much more than that, indeed it was possibly way beyond their comprehension at that time.
Paul was a teacher of the Torah, and he knew the book we now call the Old Testament back to front – which I have no doubt is why God recruited him on the Damascus road after the crucifixion of Jesus – but that’s another story as they say…
It is indeed mainly through the teachings of Paul (which makes up almost 2/3rds of the New Testament) that the whole ministry of Jesus is ‘laid bare’ and the mystery of his birth, death, and resurrection is revealed – as well as the need for Jesus blood to be shed to fulfil the monumental task of global forgiveness for all mankind under only 1 condition – the people must accept the sacrifice of Jesus in order for HIS atonement to be efficacious for them.
Why a blood sacrifice and death?
The ‘institution’ of blood sacrifice goes all the way back to Adam and Eve when they collectively disobeyed God – then became aware of their nakedness. This was a time know as ‘The Fall’ or ‘loss of innocence’ (Genesis ch 3).
At the end of this exchange we read that God clothed them with skins. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. “ (Gen 3:21)
At a quick reading this would seem fine, no problem. But a deeper inspection reveals that in order to make clothes from skins, The Lord God had to KILL an innocent animal – or 2 even!
This was the first death that Adam and Eve had ever seen, and it was bloody and messy. For them it must have been a truly horrifying moment – and it was meant to be.
This in fact was the ‘covering’ of sin – hiding sin from sight so that God might again look upon his creation, for God cannot look upon sin. (Habakkuk 1:13).
The bloody, messy death of an innocent animal was the price that had to be paid for their rebellion and mistrust of God, so that by doing so they could still enter into a relationship of sorts with their creator.
True, it was nothing like the relationship they had before their rebellion, but it was if you like a ‘second best’ relationship that God created in order that they (and the whole of mankind) were not totally doomed to a lost eternity.
This was the first sacrificial blood spilt and would lead to an institution of sacrifices that offered forgiveness of sins and acceptance in the eyes of God for a limited time only.
Fortunately from that moment on, The Lord God instituted another plan, that would eventually lead to the one sacrifice for all time that would free the people to once again return to God.
The blood of Jesus – a better way
The Apostle Paul had a God-given revelation of the situation facing mankind as a whole – the blood of animals was only ever meant to be a temporary solution to a huge problem. (Hebrews 9:11-15)
“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15)
It was revealed to Paul that whilst the blood of animals could attain temporary forgiveness or ‘covering’ of some sins, only the perfect sacrifice (Jesus) could atone for all sins on a permanent and complete basis.
To understand this aspect a little deeper, the reader must understand the difference between the blood of Jesus and the blood of the first man, Adam, and indeed the blood of a sacrificial animal.
We all as humans have the blood of the first man Adam inside us. Therefore our blood is contaminated by the sin of Adam whether we like it or not – that’s the way it is.
Just to be clear. Adam sinned against God because he knew (God told him directly) not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve on the other hand was deceived by the devil, and so the real sin of disobedience was Adams.
We are all descended from Adam by the very act of procreation – a man and a woman has sex, and a child is produced. This child is tainted by sin as it is contaminated by the blood or ‘seed’ of Adam.
The blood of Jesus however is a different matter. Jesus was born of a virgin ‘overshadowed’ by the Holy Spirit and so the seed of Adam never played any part in his birth.
This uncontaminated blood is what makes Jesus the perfect sacrifice, and something which could never be attained by an animal or indeed any other living person as Paul reveals in 1 Cor: 15:45 “So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.”
This is another reason why the virgin birth is a ‘non-negotiable’ aspect of Christianity. Without the virgin birth, Jesus would not have been the ‘perfect sacrifice’ and therefore his sacrifice would have been in vain.
The very act of accepting Jesus as our ‘sacrificial lamb’ means that we are ‘covered’ completely and perfectly by his sacrificial act, and can even approach the throne of God without fear of condemnation.
In fact we can even dare to call God ‘Abba’ which is like calling God ‘Daddy’ or ‘Dad’. No this is not sacrilegious, the Bible tells us this is indeed the case for all Christians (people who have accepted Christ as their redeemer) in Romans 8:15 “Because we have been adopted into God’s family, we are privileged to call him “Abba, Father.”
No longer are we estranged from God, but rather we have his full support, love, and understanding!
And all made possible because of the perfect life, sacrifice, and sinless blood of Jesus.
Will bad people get to heaven?
Yes there will be ‘good’ people in heaven – but there will be ‘bad’ people also!
The simple fact is that it is not your ‘good works’ that make you acceptable to God, or indeed your ‘bad deeds’ that make you unacceptable.
There is only one real condition or way to get through Heavens gates, and that is are you ‘covered’ with the blood of the perfect sacrifice – Jesus.
If not, then all the good works and bad will do you no good at all. Sin is sin and the Bible makes it plain that even 1 sin throughout your whole lifetime will make you unacceptable.
Indeed as you are in effect born a sinner unacceptable to God, you cannot change the state you are born into and so are liable for your sins as soon as you reach an ‘age of understanding’ Cf Isaiah 7:15 (Generally thought to be around 13 years).
James 2:10 makes it clear that as for keeping the commandments, to fail in even 1 of the commandments over your whole lifetime, is to fail in them all.
So will ‘bad’ people get to heaven? Yes indeed – if they have received the sacrifice of Jesus and are ‘covered’ with his blood. This fundamentally is the pre-requisite to access into Heaven.
Is there a way to heaven without Jesus?
In a word – NO. At least from a Biblical point of view.
You may well argue from your own knowledge or understanding of many other religious writings – that is indeed your prerogative.
But I have to tell you that as far as the Bible is concerned, Jesus is the ONLY way to God the Father of all.
The book of Acts makes this clear “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
To be clear: This is NOT just my own opinion – The Bible says it clearly.
Getting back to the original question. Jesus dying on the cross at calvary not only saves us from the eternal consequences of our sins (hell), but upon our acceptance of HIM, puts into place a condition where we can truly be called ‘born again’.
This is not some invented term, Jesus himself said to the Pharisee Nikodemus “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
This staggering fact means that as ‘born again’ followers of Christ, we can now live our life free from condemnation in the clear knowledge that God has forgiven us completely, and our future both now and into eternity – is secure in HIS hands.