Q&A: Jesus' Fake Sacrifice

Jesus' Fake Sacrifice

Question

If Jesus knew that he was going to be resurrected, His consent to be crucified was not really so heroic, or even self-sacrificing, was it? How does "sacrificing" Jesus on the cross (which, as far as I am concerned, is not a sacrifice, since He was resurrected) atone for the sins of humanity?

Answer

Many biblical sacrifices were not lost or consumed during the act of sacrifice. In fact, the priests often received a large portion of what was offered/sacrificed, and much of the sacrificial animal was never sacrificed in the first place (e.g. those parts no one eats). In some cases, even the worshipper who brought the sacrifice was allowed to eat it after it had been offered to God. So, "getting it back" does not fundamentally detract from a sacrifice from the biblical perspective.

Regarding resurrection more particularly, it is worth remembering that the Bible teaches that all people, good and evil, will ultimately be resurrected, the former to glory and the latter to damnation. Death in the Bible is not a non-conscious state or oblivion. Rather, it is a conscious and ultimately physical state. The fate of damned sinners is thus not best paralleled by a modern "death sentence" but rather by a modern "life sentence." Since the original sentence on those for whom Christ died was to include resurrection, the case cannot be made that Christ's own resurrection somehow reduced the value of his sacrifice. When Christ's life ended, he fulfilled the terms of the "life sentence." When he received a new life in his resurrection, it was free from the sentence that had been laid on his old life.

In any event, the Bible offers many details about why Christ's sacrifice was offered in the manner in which it was offered and why Christ was later resurrected and glorified. Christ's sacrifice was a substitution of himself in place of sinners. The sins of those from whom Christ died were "imputed" to Christ (reckoned as being Christ's sins), making him legally guilty of them. The penalty due to sinners was of a given amount, and that amount of penalty fell upon the sacrificed Christ when the sins of these sinners were imputed to him. Whether that amount was finite or infinite is irrelevant -- an infinite degree of penalty suffered for any time period is an infinite amount of suffering and punishment, eliminating the necessity of an infinite duration of punishment. Once Christ had endured the allotted suffering, God's wrath was satisfied. As a result, Christ was then free of punishment. He did his time, so to speak.

One may ask, "Why can't the condemned in hell do the same thing and then be free?" The condemned in hell can never be free because: 1) their punishment is not of sufficient degree to allow them to pay for all of it before they sin again; 2) they continue to sin even while they suffer their punishment for sin, thus perpetuating their condemnation; 3) even if they were to cease sinning (which they cannot do) until their punishment were over, they would immediately sin again; 4) they have no way to earn positive merit that would earn them a place of eternal blessing; and 5) the opportunity for their repentance and forgiveness is lost.

In short, I suppose one might say that Jesus' sacrifice would have been even more heroic and self-sacrificing if he continued to endure an infinite degree of hell for an infinite time period, though by other reckonings one might just as easily deny this by pointing out that infinity squared is still just infinity (sort of like one squared). Be that as it may, the Bible doesn't teach that Jesus' sacrifice was greatest sacrifice that might be theoretically constructed (despite the tendency of theologians to argue this). Rather, it simply teaches that his sacrifice was sufficient to accomplish what it was designed to accomplish.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.