Human beings have an innate desire to rid themselves of guilt when they know they have done wrong. There is nothing like a clear conscience. It is always an important moment when an individual admits to God the sins he or she has committed.
King David of Israel said: "When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me ...[Finally] I acknowledged my sin to You ...I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:3-5).
What should happen with this heartfelt confession to God is very important.
In another psalm of repentance after he committed two capital sins, David said to God: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).
Another aspect of repentance—a firm resolve to turn away from sin—must accompany admission of guilt. When that really happens, we can absolutely count on forgiveness from God. Why is this so? Why does God then bind Himself to completely and totally forgive all transgressions of His great spiritual law—no matter how serious?
All Christians know the answer to that question is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said: "For God [the Father] so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish [eternally], but have eternal life" (John 3:16, New American Standard Bible).
Understanding Christ's sacrifice
To help us better comprehend the various aspects of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Bible uses several practical metaphors—usually concepts we already understand fairly well. For instance, Scripture goes to the law courts for comprehension of the legal term "justification." But it is to the marketplace that we must go to understand Christ's sacrifice in terms of the concept of "redemption."
With regard to Christ's shed blood, redemption essentially means deliverance from death by means of payment of a very high price. The imagery emerges from the marketplace. To redeem is to buy back, whether as a purchase or a ransom price.
The Old Testament is very much an essential part of God's Word to mankind. It shows that although ancient Israel's deliverance from Egypt was national in scope, God's deliverance is also very personal.
The patriarch Jacob testifies to this fact. In blessing the sons of his son Joseph, he referred to "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long to this day, the Angel [Messenger] who has redeemed me from all evil . . .'" (Genesis 48:15-16, emphasis added throughout).
Most probably this "Angel" (note the capital letter "A," and the Hebrew word simply means "messenger") was none other than the preexistent Jesus Christ or "the Word" mentioned in John 1:1-3 and verse 14. (To fully understand this truth, please request our free booklets Who Is God? and Jesus Christ: The Real Story.)
We understand from the New Testament that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 8:11). There-fore they had to be redeemed in advance by Christ's sacrifice, looking ahead to it.
"Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:10-11, King James Version).
King David of Israel was also the bene-ficiary of many instances of personal deliverance from many difficulties and problems during his turbulent reign as ruler of the 12 tribes. In one of his many heartfelt prayers, he asked his Creator to "draw near to my soul, and redeem it" (Psalm 69:18).
In another of David's most poignant psalms, he wrote: "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities [sins], who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction" (Psalm 103:2-4). David looked ahead to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, having been inspired by God to write passages in the Psalms that foretold events that would happen on the cross about a thousand years later.
The benefits that David mentions in this passage are all bound up in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Bought and paid for
In the Old Testament, redemption, as earlier noted, is often a marketplace term. One could reclaim a field, which had been lost to creditors, perhaps by a bankrupt brother. It could be redeemed or bought back for him (see Leviticus 25:23-25).
In a similar manner Jesus Christ redeemed us from the effect of our sins, buying us back by paying a very steep ransom price. All of us were kidnapped spiritually by Satan the devil (the arch-adversary of God and humanity), but the blood of Christ more than covers the ransom price in full. Several New Testament passages explain this basic truth.
The apostle Paul stated: "You are not your own; you were bought at a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20, New International Version). The apostle Peter tells us just how high this price was. He wrote that "you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Jesus was absolutely and totally sinless! He died for our sins. He took them all on Himself. "So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many" (Hebrews 9:28).
Our Savior said that He came "to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). And Paul adds, "We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14).
Obtaining "eternal redemption"
The book of Hebrews tells us that "with His own blood He [Christ] entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12). This biblical passage introduces us to the concept of eternal redemption. That means its effects run on and on into the future—encompassing everlasting life in God's family and Kingdom.
Even though our past sins are forgiven by means of the blood of Christ, an important aspect of our redemption lies in the future. Ultimately, even the Passover service "finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God" (Luke 22:16, NIV).
The testimony of the apostle John enters the picture from the final book in the Bible. He quotes the 24 elders (powerful angelic beings residing in heaven) as singing a new song about Christ to His Church. ". . . You were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9-10, NIV).
This scripture marries our redemption from sin by Christ's blood to our future role as rulers assisting Him during His coming 1,000-year reign (Revelation 20:1-4).
Jesus Himself spoke of these future events in the prophecy He gave to His disciples on the Mount of Olives shortly before His death. "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near" (Luke 21:27-28).
Paul also wrote of this same time in the future when He said, "Do not grieve the [Holy] Spirit of God, by [which] you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30). This occurs at the second coming of Christ when the firstfruits of God, those who have faithfully served Him over the centuries, will be resurrected to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). (More understanding of this intriguing truth can be found in our free booklet What Happens After Death?)
But during this present age, the world plunges deeper and deeper into moral and political chaos and danger. The apostle Paul acknowledged this when he wrote: "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. And not only they, but we also who have the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption [or sonship], the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:22-23).
Summing up our salvation
Redemption cancels out our sins through the blood of Christ and also looks forward to the day when our physical bodies will be transformed from flesh into spirit (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). Redemption is eternal in its effects. It ultimately means everlasting life in the Kingdom of God. But never forget what King David said: "Blessed is he [or she] ... whose sin is covered" (Psalm 32:1).
There are many aspects of our salvation that space prevents us from explaining in any one article. That is why we publish several booklets on the subject in addition to our 12-lesson Bible Study Course, all of which go into many of these matters in much greater depth.
Transforming Your Life: the Process of Salvation and The Road to Eternal Life both explain repentance, water baptism and how we may receive God's Holy Spirit and enter into everlasting life. You Can Have Living Faith expounds the role of faith in the salvation process. Jesus Christ: The Real Story covers the sacrifice of Christ in much greater detail. Please request or download these four free booklets as well as ask to enroll in the free Bible Study Course.
Finally, please let us know if you would like to counsel with a United Church of God minister in your area. He would be glad to answer your questions and help you to embrace God's way of life. GN