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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Is man the only one made in God’s image?

An old man from Tajikistan.

Image via Wikipedia

Question: Genesis 2:7 says that God breathed into the man’s nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Does it say this of any other creation of God?

Answer: It only says that of humans and might lead us to conclude that only humans have a spirit that is in God’s likeness. Animals are said to have spirits (Ecclesiastes 3:21) but not spirits made in God’s image. Being made in God’s image means we have the intellectual, emotional and spiritual capacity to have intimate fellowship with God. Now, of course, that image is marred by our sinful propensity to misuse our gifts in contradiction of God’s will.

If, however, we ask ourselves if there are any other beings in the universe who have the intellectual, emotional and spiritual capacity to have intimate fellowship with God, angels would certainly be an answer. They too have among them those who marred the image and sought to live independently of God. Unlike us, they do not have a sacrifice to pay for their sin and are not said to be redeemable. We are not told all we might want to know about them.

By way of application, the question we might ask ourselves is, “How am I using the gifts God has given me for relationship with him?” I am built for relationship with God, yet I often find pulling away from God easier than drawing near him. What other passions have I let take precedence in my life? What could I do to increase my passion for God? What gifts has he given me that he would use for his glory and my joy if I submitted them to him?

Randall Johnson