Christ's Death: A Rescue Mission, Not a Payment for Sins
Because we don't owe a debt of guilt for Adam's sin, Jesus' suffering wasn't a payment to the Father.Prayer" with permission of Paraclete Press.
Every day, Christians pray "deliver us from evil," not knowing that the Greek original reads "the evil," that is, "the evil one." The New Testament Scriptures are full of references to the malice of the devil, but we generally overlook them. I think this is because our idea of salvation is that Christ died on the cross to pay His Father the debt for our sins. The whole drama takes place between Him and the Father, and there's no role for the evil one.
But for the early Christians, the evil one was a very real and malevolent presence. Temptation coaxes us toward sin, and sin leads to sickness and death, and ultimately confinement in the realm of the evil one. The devil's main purpose is not to scare us, in a horror-movie way; when we're scared of him we're alert to him, and that might undermine his plans. Instead, he wants to quietly, subtly lure us into stepping away from God. Sin leads to death, but death also leads to sin. Hebrews 2:14 explains that the evil one has always controlled the human race through fear of death; that's what most deeply terrifies us and makes us grab at earthly security. But "whoever would save his life will lose it" (Matthew 16:25). That's the bitter trick. Desperate, selfish clutching lands us in the realm of death.
But God sent Christ to rescue us; He took on human form (showing us that these humble human bodies can bear the presence of God, like the Burning Bush bore His fire), lived a sinless life, went into the realm of Hades like all human flesh, and then blasted it open by His power. Death could not contain Him, because He is Life. When we join ourselves to Him and begin to assimilate His Life, we too are freed from the control of the evil one.
|When the prodigal son came home, the father was already running toward him with his arms open. He didn't say, "I'd like to take you back, son, but my hands are tied. Who's going to pay this Visa bill?"|