Jesus saves the church (Ephesians 5:23) which means he saves the people who make up the church. But Jesus did not appear on earth and did not offer himself as a sacrifice for sin until thousands of years after sin entered the world. Why did it take so long? What was happening during that very long period.
To make things even more curious, the Bible teaches that the plan of salvation was crafted before man sinned in Eden (Ephesians 1:3,4; 1 Peter 1:17-21). Much time elapsed between the entry of sin and the entry of redemption. There was a divine plan in mind and everything happened precisely according to that plan. Some people demand an explanation for this time lapse but they fail to appreciate that God works according to his own plan and his own methods. If we look closely we can see that Jesus came at just the right time (Galatians 4:4)
This exceptionally well planned and deliberately executed plan of events brings salvation to my doorstep. When I look at its divine precision I am convinced that God in heaven is working on my behalf. I am a Christian, in part, because of the way this special plan of salvation was brought about.
The Great Disappointment
Man sinned. We expect men to sin now but in the beginning there was no sin and no indication that man would err. But, he did. And when he did he found himself divided from his Creator, split from his Maker and unable to enjoy the oneness that had marked the relationship to that point. It wasn’t God’s fault that Adam and Eve were now outcasts. Their removal from the garden and from the Tree of Life was a simple result of the consequences of their own actions.
No doubt Satan was rejoicing on this dark day; he had ruined God’s pristine creation. But not so fast. God was not willing to surrender his people to Satan’s diabolical work.
A distant, vague promise is made in Genesis 3:15. A redeemer is coming! He would not come immediatly, but only after centuries of preparation and development. The world must be made ready for Jesus Christ. Man must be taught just how awful sin is so that they will come to the one who can save them from their sins. There must be no question that the redeemer is God the Son (John 1:1-4) and that he is the answer to all our sin problems.
There was great disaapointment in the coming of sin. Now there would be great joy at the coming of a savior!
The Planning of Salvation
A careful reading of the Bible shows that God has worked with man in three different ways. In the early chapters of Genesis he dealt with man through the heads of the families. This system worked for some people (Gentiles) until the cross of Christ. In Abraham, God began to craft out an early image of the church. The Israelites demonstrate much about the nature of the church. Finally, all men were commonly brought under the Christian age of which we are a part today.
Someone may wonder why the whole system of priests and animal sacrifices was needed. It’s a reasonable question.
Sin Requires Payment
Many lessons were taught under the Law of Moses. One key lesson is that sin must be atoned for or payed for in some way. The Israelites were taught (and we were taught too) in a graphic way the sin requires death and sacrifice. Leviticus 1-4 details the basic forms of sacrifice under the Law of Moses. In many cases the best animals from the herd (not wild) were offered. This required the death of the animal and the sacrifice of the owner who had to give up something of great value. Why? Because sin is never cheap and its payment is always high. It was a graphic lesson but one ingrained in the Hebrew people.
Sin Requires Blood
Sacrifices were offered twice daily at the Tabernacle and later at the Temple. In addition there were special days like the Day of Atonement when sacrifices would increase to an almost unbelievable level. The stinch of death was in the air. Israelites came to associate blood with the sacrifices and with their sins. God told the Israelites that blood was for their learning. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 7:11).
The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews would assert through inspiration that while blood makes atonement the blood of animals could never make full atonement (Hebrews 10:4). Instead, it was by the blood of Jesus, pure and without blemish just like the characteristics of the sacrificial animals, that men are saved. It was a one time offering that paid for sin forever (Hebrews 10:10-14).
Someone has suggested that all the horrible offerings required by God were over “petty wrongdoings.” Nothing could be more wrong. Sin is horrible and until we understand that we will never fully appreciate the death of Jesus at Calvary. The massive death, dying and bleeding that accompanied the sacrifices serves to teach us just how awful sin is.
The death of Jesus, innocent and without any sin, takes the horror of sin to new depths. If sin were not terrible, there would be no need for all the death.
Sin Requires Jesus
With all of this background teaching us that God hates sin, that God will care for his people, that God will provide for his people and that God is holy and must be treated as holy, it was time for Jesus. The Israelite nation brought with it the religious and spiritual teachings given to them, the Greeks had left a cultured world with a language that was precise and flexible, the perfect tool for communicating truth. The Romans provided the Empire with great safety, security and the ability to travel great distances under the protection of Roman soldiers. Yes, it was just the right time for Christ.
The whole world was waiting for Jesus to appear. When he was born in Bethlehem to a virgin the world was blessed with the redeemer it had hoped for.
Jesus preached, taught and lived a simple life of purity. He was then executed for our sins. Without the backdrop of all of the ancient sacrifices and without the understanding of God and his great holiness, the death of Jesus would have been robbed of much of its truth.
Everything you read of in the Old Testament points to Jesus. We are far greater blessed because we have it. I am a Christian because of the way God developed our faith.
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