Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
DIVINE ECONOMY IN THE RANSOM
"There is one God, and one mediator between God and
men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a Ransom
for all, to be testified in due time."
The Ransom is the very center of all the New Testament teachings, the general touchstone by which we may determine what is Truth and what is not Truth in respect to every feature of the Divine Plan. The Ransom may be likened to the hub of a wheel, from which various spokes radiate in every direction to a general periphery, or circumference. In the great Plan of God for human salvation the Ransom constitutes the very central feature, and from it radiate all the doctrines which end in the fullness and completeness of that Divine Plan. Indeed, from whatever viewpoint we look at this subject, it is both beautiful and consistent.
Yet there was a time with you and with me, and doubtless with all the thinking public, when it seemed strange that there could be any necessity for a Ransom; for we had not then come to understand our great Heavenly Father’s Character and Plan. At that time we would have been inclined to say, "Oh no! God would never in any sense of the word have a Plan or Program which would necessitate the shedding of blood! He would not wish to have any one die for the wrong doings of another!
Such a proposition would be unjust." But in so expressing ourselves we would be reasoning falsely; and this is just what many earnest people are doing today. Many thoughtful people are saying, "I do not believe in this idea of a necessity for a human sacrifice." Nevertheless this thought of a Ransom is found throughout the Scriptures; and when we get the right conception of the subject from the Bible viewpoint, we see such a wonderful
beauty, such a wonderful consistency, in this whole matter that we are amazed, and long for the time when all the world shall see it.
Different phases of God’s Plan strike different individuals amongst His children in slightly different ways.
Some are more attracted by one particular, and others by another. With me it has always seemed very wonderful to note the element of economy exhibited by our Heavenly Father, who apparently never wastes anything.
So, also, with our Lord Jesus. After He had, by Divine Power, fed thousands from a few loaves and fishes, He instructed His disciples to gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost. (
.) Surely this injunction must have seemed strange to them. Why should the Master, who had power to create on so large a scale, be so careful about the fragments? Doubtless, too, every scientist has marveled at the Divine economy in nature, where all things are balanced, and merely change their form as they pass from one condition to another—whether from solid to liquid or from liquid to gas, etc. Apparently God has a principle of perpetual motion in nature, by which nothing is lost, but reappears in another form.
ECONOMY SHOWN IN RESPECT TO REDEMPTION
This Divine quality of economy is manifested even in the great Plan for human salvation. When first my mind grasped this thought, I exclaimed, "Wonderful! Nobody but our Heavenly Father Himself would have thought about this principle!" Having been reared by Presbyterian parents, I had been indoctrinated in the Shorter Catechism during childhood; and as my parents had never strayed away from the Bible into Evolution and Higher Criticism, I had all the advantages which accrue from the Westminster teachings about the fall of man and original sin. Although we had wrong conceptions as to what constitutes the penalty of sin, nevertheless we had the facts—that our first parents were created perfect and placed in a perfect environment in Eden, that
they had sinned and had come under God’s curse, and that somehow the result was that all our race was still under that curse, which we thought was eternal torment. We did not understand the Bible as thoroughly as now.
Later in life, when my mind began to see that the penalty of sin is death—not life in any condition—I began to inquire how it was that, if there is to be a redemption, one person could die for an entire race; for the proposition did not seem reasonable. In reply my teachers told me that in the three and a half years of His ministry, and especially during the short time of His crucifixion, our Lord Jesus suffered as much as all the human family would have suffered. But the longer I ponder over this statement, the more unreasonable it appeared to me.
Finally, I came to understand the meaning of the word Ransom; and then this subject ceased to be a mystery.
A PRICE THAT CORRESPONDS
A careful study of the word Ransom with the aid of an unabridged concordance brought to light the fact that the Greek word thus rendered—
—means a price that corresponds. Any one can study the matter out for himself in Strong’s or in Young’s Concordance. Gradually we began to get the correct idea that our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself a Ransom, a Corresponding-price, for all mankind. Then we began to understand the Apostle’s words, "As by a man came death, by a man came also the resurrection from the dead." (
.) There was one man who sinned—Adam, who brought the death penalty upon all his posterity. There was one Man who died, the Just for the unjust—Christ Jesus. Thus we have the corresponding-price.
But we had been taught that there are three persons in the Godhead, that our Lord Jesus was the second of these, and that God cannot die. Again we inquired of our teachers, and were told that being God our Lord could not really die—that His body alone died. So again we were confused. But further study of our Bible began to
clear our heads from all the nonsense and confusion which crept into the Church during the Dark Ages, and we saw that the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Scriptures at all. Then we saw that Our Lord was the Son of God, as He Himself had declared, "the Beginning of the creation of God." (
.) Next we saw that the thought contained in the word Ransom did not call for a God to redeem a man, nor could a spirit being of any rank do so; for there could be no correspondency between them. Finally the matter cleared up in our mind; and we perceived that whoever would redeem man must himself be a man—the full equivalent of the man who sinned. This thought helped us to understand all that the Bible said about our Lord’s having left the Heavenly glory and becoming a man.—
DOCTRINE OF INCARNATION UNSCRIPTURAL
But we had greatly been troubled about the subject of incarnation, as even some of the Truth people seem to be; for they still misuse this word. There is nothing in the Bible on this subject, and there is no truth in this doctrine. Incarnation means an assuming of a human body. It would mean that our Lord in His prehuman existence assumed flesh—materialized, just as He and two angels did back in the days of Abraham. (
.) The three were incarnated. They were still spirit beings, but appeared to Abraham as men, and ate and talked with him. But this was not true with our Lord Jesus at His First Advent. He who was rich became poor for man’s sake—not that He merely pretended to be poor; not that He acted as if He were poor and so assumed an inferior body for awhile. On the contrary He "was made flesh"—not assumed flesh. Do you perceive the difference? He was "the Man Christ Jesus," not "appeared to be the Man Christ Jesus." He left the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; He laid it aside; He divested Himself of that glorious condition on the spirit
plane, and exchanged His life on the spirit plane for a human nature, in order to be a corresponding-price for the man who sinned—Adam.
The Bible explains that it was a perfect man that sinned. Therefore whoever would ransom him must also be a perfect man—a corresponding-price. No matter how great the angel, no matter how glorious the Logos, no one on a higher plane of being would do. Nor would anything below the human plane do. The finest bullock in all the world could not be a real sin-offering or actually take away sin. Nothing higher or lower than perfect humanity would atone for the sinner. A perfect man had sinned.
Only a perfect man could redeem the sinner.—
Then came the thought: How could this one Man Christ Jesus by this one death redeem all mankind—Adam and his thousands of millions of children? When my mind perceived the Scriptural teaching on this subject, I received a wonderfully broad thought of God’s Wisdom, by which He planned it all in advance, so that only one death was necessary. Then I saw the marvelous economy of the Divine Plan for human salvation. Nobody but God could have thought of such beauty and symmetry. Only one man was tried at the bar of Divine Justice, and condemned to death. By the laws of heredity his condemnation came upon all his posterity, all of whom die because of his original sin. If God had tried and condemned two men or ten men or a hundred men or more, their redemption would have required an individual redeemer for each one.
THE ECONOMY OF THE DIVINE PLAN
Often when a child I wondered why God did not give all mankind the same opportunity that He gave Adam, why all were not permitted to come into Eden and have a fair chance as Adam had. But in later years when I came to see the beauty of the doctrine of the Ransom, the reason seemed very simple. If you and I had been brought
into the world under conditions similar to those under which Adam was, we would have done just as he did, for the same reason that he did—lack of experience. We are therefore not faulting Father Adam and Mother Eve; but we are extolling our great and wise God. He was not taking any chances to see whether one out of a hundred thousand might do differently, and planning to provide a redeemer for every one who did wrong. What confusion such a plan would have wrought!
For instance, suppose that God had placed fifty perfect human beings on trial in Eden at the beginning, and that one half of them had sinned—twenty-five sinners and an equal number of saints; and suppose that there had been provided a Paradise for the saints and the cursed condition for the sinners. Condemnation on one side of the fence, and blessing on the other—what confusion there would be! Then when it came to the redemption of the sinners, it would require that the twenty-five saints die for the twenty-five sinners. Where would the matter have ended then? "Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot," is the Law of Justice. (
.) And God operates His Government along the line of Justice, as the Psalmist intimates.
Should some one wonder why God operates along the line of Justice rather than Love, we reply: In His great mercy God sees best to exercise absolute Justice in order that Love may operate impartially toward all. But because mankind are fallen from their original perfection God instructs us to work along the line of love; for we need to exercise mercy and to learn the great lesson of loving-kindness toward all. Let us not forget that God did not create the imperfect conditions which we see all around us. Imperfection is the result of disobedience.
When during the Millennium God shall have brought the human race back into harmony with Himself, and when every creature in Heaven and on earth shall be in full
harmony with Him, all their lessons on right and wrong learned perfectly, and all able and willing to do righteously, then no one will need mercy. All will be able to meet the just requirements of God’s Government, and they will not be harmed by His Divine arrangements; for God’s Justice is for fair dealings toward every one of His creatures. But now we must make an allowance because we are sinners ourselves and all around us are likewise sinners.—
God does not now deal with the fallen race of Adam.
If we desire to draw near to Him we must lay hold upon the One who is able to save to the uttermost all who come to the Father through Him—Christ Jesus our Redeemer.
All God’s mercy is exercised through Christ. God does not exercise mercy directly. He maintains the even tenor of His rule of righteousness, but makes special provision for the sinner race through Christ Jesus. Forgiveness of sin, and everything relating to repentance and reformation of life, come through our Lord Jesus Christ—through the Ransom-price which He has provided.
HOW THIS ECONOMY OPERATES
This economical feature of the Divine Plan is a most wonderful thought. By one man’s disobedience God permitted the results of that transgression to affect all of Adam’s children. All mankind were involved under the original sin of the one man. "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men." (
.) Then in due time God so arranged that the sin of the one man, Adam, would be met by the Man Christ Jesus; that thus Adam would in due time be freed from the death penalty; and that all his children, who inherited death as well as weakness and imperfection through him, would also be amenable to this one redemption—that the one Ransom-price was sufficient for Adam and all his posterity.
To me this is the most wonderful thought in the whole Plan of God. I have gloried in this thought of God’s great
Wisdom manifested in His arrangement through Christ Jesus, through the Ransom. The more we meditate upon it, the more wonderful it becomes; for it is the very central feature of God’s great Plan for human salvation, its very brightest spot. Do you not agree with me that it is a wonderful thing?
RANSOM FAR-REACHING AS THE CURSE
Our text declares that our Lord gave Himself a Ransom-price for all. He did so for all in the sense that eventually its benefits will extend to every member of the Adamic race. The mere giving up of His life did not extend a blessing to all mankind; but the giving up of His life was the basis upon which God will permit Him in due time to establish His Millennial Kingdom and to bring in the blessings of Restitution for the whole race during the thousand years of His Reign. If it had not been for the Ransom, there could have been no Restitution. The whole race of Adam had been condemned to death in their first father. Therefore it would not have been proper for the Man Jesus to attempt to bring out from under condemnation those whom the Justice of God had sentenced to death.
Adam and his posterity were sentenced to death, not to eternal torment, as some erroneously suppose the Scriptures to teach. (
#Ge 2:17; 3:17-19
.) Before there could be a resurrection, it was necessary that this death penalty against the race be met.
As by man came death, by a man must come this cancelling of the death penalty, in order to make possible a resurrection, a raising up of the dead. There is no other way by which any may have a future life. Therefore all this great Divine Plan for the blessing of the world hinges upon this first step of the program—the Ransom.
St. Paul says that the Ransom was for all. When the Apostle says that our Lord gave Himself a Ransom—a Corresponding-price—for ALL, his thought evidently is that this was the purpose lying behind the sacrifice of
Christ Jesus. By this we do not understand that our Lord has yet made an application of His sacrifice to all; for God’s due time for blessing all men has not yet come. Moreover, it would not have been appropriate for our Lord to make the application of the merit of His sacrifice in advance—at the First Advent—and then to come back later on—at His Second Advent—to deal with mankind.
Therefore the whole matter is held over until the due time comes for dealing with the Adamic race. Meantime Adam, who fell asleep thousands of years ago, and others of his posterity can await in sleep for that glorious Day when He who redeemed them shall place the merit of His sacrifice on behalf of Adam and all his race, shall make application of it, paying it over to Divine Justice, and then take over mankind as His purchased possession.
Our Lord gave Himself—gave up His life, surrendered His life—with this end in view. This was the program set before Him—that He was to surrender Himself to death, and that this would be the basis upon which He might become the great Mediator between God and men, the great Restorer of mankind, the long-promised Seed of Abraham, to bless all the families of the earth.
WHY THE DELAY OF EIGHTEEN CENTURIES
Just here some one may ask, "Why is it that our Lord did not make application of the merit of His sacrifice at Pentecost? Why this long delay of eighteen hundred and more years before He begins this work of blessing the world?" We reply, If it had not been that God had planned to have associated with our Lord in this glorious work of blessing a Church, an Anointed Body of footstep followers of Jesus, there would have been no delay of eighteen centuries. In other words, if the Church had not been included in God’s Plan, then when our Lord Jesus had risen from the dead and had ascended on High to appear in the presence of God, doubtless He would have offered the value of His sacrifice for the whole world of mankind, and at once would have taken over the Adamic
race and begun His Reign for their blessing. But because this was not the Divine Plan, therefore our Lord did what He did—He appeared in the presence of God for US, for the CHURCH, and not for the world at all.—
Thus far, then, our Lord has appeared only for His Church. He has not as yet appeared for the world. After the Church shall have been glorified with Him and exalted to the Divine plane of glory, then our Lord will appear for the world. Meantime, however, He is dealing with His Church, taking the Church class out of the world, as He said: "Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." (
#Joh 15:19; 17:14
.) The Church, consecrated believers, have escaped the condemnation which is still on the world. (
.) But the world is still under condemnation. As yet our Lord has appeared only for the believer; He has not done anything for the unbeliever. His death, which will be the Ransom-price for all mankind after it has been turned over on their behalf, has not yet been applied for them; but it will be applied "in due time."
You remember that in His prayer the night of His apprehension our Lord said: "I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine." (
.) Yet a few hours later He died for the world, and all mankind are included in what our Lord is to do—"a Ransom for all, to be testified IN DUE TIME." But since He knew that it would be more than eighteen hundred years before that due time would come, He could not with propriety pray for something so far in the future. But the Father had given to Our Lord the Church. The Divine purpose was that during this long period of time this class would be gathered out of the world under certain conditions, in order that they might be with the Lord and share His exaltation, might be His companions in His glory, honor and immortality—the Divine nature. Therefore our Lord prayed for them on the night in which He was betrayed, as was right and
proper. He had called His twelve Apostles, and five hundred had believed on His word. The work thus begun would continue until the full number of the Elect would have been called, chosen and accepted in Him.
THE NEXT FEATURE OF THE DIVINE PROGRAM
The Bible assures us that in due time our Lord will pray for the world, and that He will be heard. "Ask of Me; and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession." (
.) When the first feature of the work, the selection of the Church, shall have been completed, when the Church shall have passed into Heavenly glory, then will come the "due time" for the next feature of the Divine Program. Then our Lord will make application of the Ransom-price on behalf of the sins of the whole world. He will say in substance, "Father, I now appropriate for the world of mankind this value of My death as the offset to Father Adam’s death. I now apply it to Adam and all his children, as their Purchase-price; And now I ask for them. I ask Thee to give them to Me according to Thy promise to give Me the heathen—the world of mankind." Then the Father will turn them over to our Lord as His purchased possession.
The fact that He who redeemed the race of Adam is to be the One to give them their trial for life everlasting, during the thousand years of His Reign, is the very best guarantee that mankind will have a fair, full, complete trial, a just, reasonable, loving trial at the hands of a loving Redeemer, who will do everything proper to be done in order to help them out of their weaknesses and imperfections and to bring them back to the full perfection of human nature, lost through Father Adam’s original sin in Eden, but redeemed by our Lord at Calvary.
That is to say, the Redemption-price was laid down at Calvary; and in due time that Redemption-price will be applied, or given over, surrendered to Justice in exchange for the world of mankind. Thus the Ransom work
will have been accomplished, the whole world taken possession of by our Lord, and He shall reign for a thousand years, the "Times of Restitution spoken by the mouth of all the holy Prophets since the world began."—
DIVINE METHOD OF DEALING WITH THE CHURCH
Now, my dear brethren, we have before our minds the Ransom, the necessity for it, the time when the Sacrifice for sin was made, and the time when the merit of that sacrifice is to be applied for the world of mankind. But, meantime, the Church receives an imputation of that merit. We do not have that merit applied to us, however; we do not get the real thing; for that would be Restitution, which is not for the Church at all, not according to our Covenant of Sacrifice. We have covenanted to give up earthly things. The Church will not get Restitution, therefore; and that is what our Redeemer purchased with His death. He did not purchase the Divine nature, but purchased Father Adam and all of his posterity according to the flesh—human nature. The giving of our Lord’s human life forms the Purchase-price for Adam and his race—the world.—
The Church has given up the human nature in sacrifice, and has been begotten to the spirit nature. Therefore we shall never reach human perfection. But while developing as New Creatures in Christ, we need an imputation of the merit of His Sacrifice to cover our blemishes and imperfections resulting from the original sin and transmitted to us by the law of heredity. Our Lord did not need any such imputation; for He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners," and the Father had agreed to accept such a sacrifice for Adam.
Our Lord needed no one to make good for Him. He was acceptable to God as a full offset to Adam. As a reward for the work which our Lord was to accomplish for mankind the Father gave Him the promise of glory, honor
and immortality—the Divine nature; and our Lord has attained it.—
To those who, during this Gospel Age, will surrender their wills to God and permit their lives to go down into Death in obedience to the Divine will, the Father has promised a share with Our Lord in His glory, honor and immortality as His Bride and Joint-heir. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a Crown of Life." (
But before we can present our bodies a living sacrifice a difficulty must first be removed; for we are members of the sinner race, and God cannot recognize sinners. We have already been condemned to death in Adam. We are by nature members of that sinner race upon whom the sentence of death already rests. Before we can offer ourselves to God something must be done to release us from the death sentence resting upon us. That something was done when our Lord had "ascended on High and appeared in the presence of God for us"—the Church. There He made an arrangement with the Father by which the merit of His sacrifice has been imputed to those who have followed in His steps, laying down their lives in sacrifice.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IMPUTATION AND APPLICATION
The best illustration I can think of to bring out the difference between imputation and application is that of a note as contrasted with money. Suppose that I had need for a thousand dollars to carry my business through today, but did not have that sum in ready money. But suppose a friend who had the thousand dollars would send word to me, "I will endorse your note for the sum that you need." That endorsement of a note would be equivalent to giving me the money; for the bank would accept the note as instead of one thousand dollars.
So our Lord does not give us restitution when we present ourselves to Him in sacrifice. Instead, He imputes.
That is to say, we give a promissory note—we promise God that we will sacrifice our life and all that we
have now, and all our hopes of the future restitution to perfect humanity; in other words, we give up all our rights as human beings in order to follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer. We figuratively make our note to this effect; and our Lord Jesus endorses it, gives to it a value which it otherwise would not have. This is the imputation of our Lord’s merit as it comes to the Church.
This imputation does not excuse us from anything, however; for when we offered ourselves in consecration we agreed to give up everything that we possess. All our claims to restitution are forever gone. If we should fail in what we have undertaken as New Creatures, we cannot receive restitution with the world; for we have relinquished all our rights as human beings. If we become careless in sacrificing our life, it would then be our Lord Jesus’ duty, as our Advocate, to see that we are obliged to do what we had agreed to do. This is the secret which has led to the formation of the Great Company class. They do not go forward to lay down their lives voluntarily; and therefore they are pushed, so to speak, by Divine providence into a place where they must suffer. When brought into this position by the great Endorser, the Advocate of the Church (
), the really loyal ones will suffer death rather than deny God and His arrangement. But the disloyal ones will draw back from carrying out their Covenant of Sacrifice, and thus do despite to the favor of God. Eventually all such will die the Second Death.
The imputation of the merit of our Redeemer’s sacrifice to the Church in advance of its application for the world enables us to lay down our earthly life in order to win the great prize of glory, honor and immortality—the Divine nature. This is the most wonderful opportunity that could come to any member of the fallen race—that our Lord could impute to us that which would enable us to become sacrificers and to attain to joint-heirship with Him in His Millennial Kingdom.