Why Didn’t Jesus Have to Suffer the Way Unbelievers Will?

Question:  Why was it such a difficult thing for Jesus to die on the cross and pay for our sins? I know that he took the full force of God’s wrath for our sin, but what did that do to Jesus? I know Jesus went through hell, but it was only temporary. All of us die, some very horrible deaths. And then some of us receive payment for our sins forevermore to be separated from God. This is terrible to say, but honestly it seems like a small price to pay considering humans and demons continue paying for their sin forever. I know Jesus was innocent of any sins. How can I see this from a more realistic and Godly viewpoint?

Answer:   I think you’re asking why Jesus didn’t have to pay more of a price equal to the punishment humans receive for rebelling against God.  He only died physically (and though torturous it was fairly limited compared to how some have been made to suffer) and then he was only separated from God for a short time and then entered Paradise upon death.  In other words, Jesus’ penalty seems way less than what others have exacted from them by God.

I have just had some of my own assumptions challenged in this area.  Are we correct in assuming that Jesus’ death has to be equal to the suffering of death that anyone else experiences to adequately pay the price for their sin?  Is the price for sin related to how horribly we die or just that we die physically?  It would seem it could only be related to the fact that we die, not the extent of our suffering.

And was Jesus’ statement that God had forsaken him a statement of the Father’s actually  abandoning him spiritually (so that he experienced a taste of hell)?  What is the actual penalty of rebellion against God?  It might only be physical death and that physical death for the unbeliever leads to eternal separation from God as a consequence, not so much as a penalty.

I don’t know yet how to answer each of those questions I raised, but I think it is important to recognize that Jesus was the only human being who ever lived a completely righteous life in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the value of his life is of infinite value and capable of paying for every human being who believes.  The fact that he would choose to die in our place when he did not deserve to die at all lends even greater weight to his sacrifice.

So we don’t have to see some kind of one-to-one correspondence between how Jesus died and how everyone else dies.  It is more a matter of what God accepts.  God values Jesus’ death as equal to what we would have had to pay corporately.  He feels it is a just payment in our place.  We may not fully understand how that is so, but we know His balance scales are always honestly weighted.  He didn’t give himself an easy way out.

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What is the value of water baptism?

Question:  What is the purpose of water baptism? Is it a sign of the believer’s covenant  with the Lord, similar to circumcision? At the very least, it seems valuable to me as a   tangible memory or similar to building an altar of remembrance of one’s new commitment to Christ. However, many today wait a long time to be baptized; this is in contrast to the New Testament times where people seemed to be baptized quickly.

Answer:  There are those who believe that water baptism is essential to salvation.  They will point to such passages as Acts 2:38 in which Peter says “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” and Acts 22:16 where Ananias instructs Paul to “be baptized and wash away your sins.”  But Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 that this is not the case.  He writes:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.  (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

If baptism was essential to salvation, Paul could not and should not have separated it from preaching the gospel.  Christ, indeed, would have sent him to baptize if it were required.

But if it is not essential for salvation, or doesn’t actually wash away sins, then what does it do?  And I believe it does what you suggested.  It is a symbol that is an aid to faith.  Faith is what saves us, is what washes away our sins, but baptism gives visible and tactile expression to that faith.  Human beings need to give such expression to our inward beliefs to help solidify them in our souls.

In addition, the outward demonstration of faith given in baptism helps others to be more aware of our faith and acts as an encouragement to their own faith.  The Bible does not emphasize this but it is a reality.  And you are correct that normally new believers were almost immediately baptized upon conversion.  This did not always give much opportunity for a crowd to gather.  So the symbol is much more for the believer than for his or her fellow Christians.

However, there is nothing that says we must be baptized immediately.  The early church began a process of teaching new converts to ascertain whether they were genuine followers of Christ before baptizing them.  This seems to go too much counter to the New Testament example.  But for us to make it a part of a community worship opportunity seems a judicious use of the symbol to help everyone rejoice with the new convert.

Randall Johnson

Other articles on baptism:

Is the Mode of Baptism Inconsequential?

What Does Your Church Believe About Baptism?

Are Paul’s Writings Scripture?

Papyrus Bodmer VIII, Original: Biblioteca Apos...

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Question:  How do we know that everything Paul wrote is true?

Answer:  Jesus told His apostles in John 16:13 that when the Spirit of truth came He would lead them into all truth.  Jesus himself taught his disciples how to interpret the Old Testament (Luke 24).  He was preparing them to lead the church with authority and truth.

Paul often declares himself to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, appointed by Him after the others but in no way less authoritative than them (Romans 1:1, 5; 11:13; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 4:9; 9:1, 2, 5; 15:9; 2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11, 12; Galatians 1:1; 2:8; et al).  He indicates that his teaching is to be obeyed (1 Corinthians 14:36,37; 15:1-4; et al).

Interestingly, in 2 Peter 3:15,16 Peter refers to Paul’s writings as “Scripture” (“His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”).  And the testimony we have from Paul and Peter is that the Scriptures are God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and from the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

So from a biblical perspective, Paul’s writings are Scripture that is divinely inspired and produced by the Holy Spirit to give us doctrine and training in righteousness.  They are meant to be taken by us as God’s Word.  Without this assurance we would struggle to really know how to discern God’s will in our lives.  Our understanding of the gospel would be at stake.  We need these authoritative words in order to know how to live before God.

Randall Johnson

Can Satan Read Our Minds?

Question:  I believe that Satan cannot possess me but can he put thoughts in my head. It seems that he can, but if so how? How would he know my thoughts or control them without being inside of me?

Answer:  I wish I knew all the answers to these questions.  It could be that he knows human beings well enough from our behavior, having watched us for many millennia.  This enables him to predict our thoughts to a fair degree.  I don’t believe he can read them, but I can’t prove that.  It seems too God-like a thing for him to be able to do. 

How he influences our thoughts, I don’t know.  It has seemed from my experience that he or demons can create an ambiance, air, feeling of something like fear or shame or whatever, that we pick up on and adopt as our own.  But when we take authority over the unclean spirit or spirits in the name of Jesus the ambiance disappears.  We may have some of our own legitimate fear, shame, or whatever, that still remains, but it seems to have been magnified by what Satan or a demon does.

Perhaps you’ve been around someone who was down or fearful and it began to arouse in you the same feeling.  This may be what is going on when demons purposely seek to sway us in wrong responses to the situations in our lives.  They don’t want us to see the truth that God is with us and that we need not despair, or be distraught with fear, or controlled by lust, or whatever other inhibiting attitude or concern they might induce us to.  Standing on the truth of God is the key to overcoming their evil influence (Ephesians 6:10-18).

The corollary to this truth is that we can be people of positive influence in the lives of others as we display courage, faith, purity and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Randall Johnson

Can We Be Booted Out of Heaven Like Satan Was?

Question:  Were angels created on the first day when God made the heavens and earth? Or do we know when they were created?

Also, if Lucifer could be kicked out of heaven, is the reason we can’t be kicked out of Heaven because we are sealed with the Holy Spirit? Or when God makes a “new heaven and a new earth” will it be different than the old heaven and no one will be able to be kicked out because there won’t be sin? Or can we be kicked out just like Lucifer was?

Answer:  We might infer from Genesis 3 that angels were created before humans since we see the devil already fallen and speaking through the serpent in the garden to tempt Adam and Eve to disobedience.  Of course, this gets us into questions about whether Genesis 1 depicts 24 hour days or day-ages, etc.  If you subscribe to the Day-Age theory of creation I suppose you could have Satan and the other angels created on the first day of earth creation or before and that would be way earlier than humans.

Job 38:7 makes it sound like the angels were already in existence and rejoicing over God’s creative work on earth, so my thinking is that they predated the creation of earth.

 Apparently angels (who it seems are created in God’s image and are each individual creations of God [see below]) included those who were chosen for salvation and those who were not (1 Timothy 5:21).  Satan was not, and he chose to rebel against God (though Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are said by some to refer to Satan’s fall, I think there is good reason not to see it as a direct reference to him).  The elect angels could not rebel, and we, as you noted, being sealed with the Spirit, cannot turn away from God either.  Heaven will only consist of those whose “spirits” have been “made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23).  Many other Scriptures make it clear that we cannot lose our salvation.

The new heaven and earth is the place where heaven ultimately will reside.  Revelation 21,22 describe the heavenly Jerusalem coming to earth as its resting place, and God dwelling in its midst.  So we’re safe in either place.

BIBLICAL DATA ON ANGELS

            Ps. 148:2,5; Col. 1:16; Job 38:7; Heb. 1:14; (Lk. 24:39; 8:30)

             A.  Angels are created

            B.  Angels were created before man, perhaps before earth

             C.  Angels are spirits and do not have bodies of any kind 

  • spirits do not have flesh and bones
  • spirits do not take up space
  • spirits can not be in more that one place at a time

  

            2 Sam. 14:20; Mt. 24:36; Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12; 2 Pet. 2:11

             D.  Angels are intelligent but not all knowing

             Mt. 25:31; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26; Ac. 10:22; Rev. 14:10

             E.  Angels are holy

             Lk. 20:35,36

             F.  Angels are immortal and non-reproductive (each is an individual creation of God)

            Ps. 103:20; Dan. 10;  Col. 1:16; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; Heb. 1:14

             G.  Angels are God’s servants and stand in various ranks before God

             Dt. 33:2; Ps. 68:17; Mk. 5:9,15; Mt. 26:53; Rev. 5:11

             H.  Angels are multitudinous

How Do Angels Interact with People Today?

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Question:  Four questions my wife and I are discussing:

  1. Are there any examples of angels engaging in combat in the Bible?
  2. Are there any examples of angels engaging in a healing process in the Bible?
  3. What are the methods of angels interacting with humans and do you have any references
  4. Do angels deliver messages today to believers and if so, is there a limit here to what messages and could they deliver it through other people?

Answer:  There is a surprising amount of information in the Bible about angels.  In answer to your questions… 

  1. Daniel 10 depicts an angel who came to answer Daniel’s prayer with a message from God.  He related to Daniel that the “prince of Persia” resisted him until the archangel Michael’s arrival to help him get free to come to Daniel.  It seems the conflict between angels in heaven affects the lives of people on earth.  Various political entities have angelic and demonic beings associated with them seeking to accomplish things in and through them.  The demonic prince of Persia did not want the angel from God to encourage Daniel, but Michael made sure he got through.  In addition to this passage many others speak of angels as the Host of God and angels are seen in battle or ready for battle in such passages as Numbers 22; 2 Samuel 24; 2 Kings 19; and Matthew 25:63 among others.
  2. After Jesus’ temptation (Matthew 4:11) and his prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43) angels came to Jesus and ministered to or strengthened him.
  3. Angels are seen in Scripture accompanying the Israelites in the Exodus (Exodus 32:34), bringing messages from God (Matthew 1:20; 2:13; Luke 1:11-13, 26-28; Acts 10:3-6; 27:23,24; et al), participating in the last judgment (all through Revelation) and various other activities involving humans.  Admittedly, these are few and far between, but they on occasion act on behalf of God to accomplish His purposes.
  4. It is entirely up to God as to whether He wants to use angels today to deliver messages to believers and He may indeed choose to do so, as many have attested.  Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to entertain strangers since they might be angels.  This isn’t the only reason Scripture gives for helping those in need, but it shows us that God may still use angels in this way.  The only limit I can think of as to what they might communicate to people is that it cannot be in contradiction to God’s revealed Word in Scripture.  As to whether they can communicate through another person, that seems a little too much like demon possession and the Scripture never represents angels as doing that.

Is Preaching the Kingdom and the Gospel the Same Thing?

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Question:  What is the Kingdom of God mentioned in Luke 9?  It says, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (9:1,2).  Is it as simple as the Gospel?  The disciples would not know the gospel as Christ had not been Crucified yet.  I know the Kingdom of God is mentioned many times and I dont really know exactly what it is.

Answer:  It is not completely as simple as the gospel, but close.  The “gospel” means the good news and Jesus was preaching the good news of the kingdom, that is, that the kingdom was near and that you could enter it by being born again.  It was an invitation at once to submit to God and at the same time to find His forgiveness when you quit working to become more submissive and trusted Him to work in your life.  With the preaching of the kingdom by the King, Jesus, came numerous foretastes of the kingdom in the form of miracles.  In the kingdom all our sickness and sin will be done away with.  As Jesus introduced the kingdom he gave people a taste of what it would be like by healing their diseases, casting out demons and setting them free with forgiveness.  Another part of the kingdom promise (Jer 31) is a new heart to enable us to keep God’s laws.