34: Judgments & the New Testament (2)
The Judgment of Jesus Christ
The Human Causes of Jesus' Death
The Plan of God at the Heart of the Cross
The Real Reason for the Death of Jesus Christ
we have considered the New Testament (excluding the book of Revelation)
taking note of references to judgments in the Gospels, in Acts and
in the Epistles and yet t he monumental judgment of the New Testament
has to be that of the Son of God himself for that is what happened
this is such an important subject, we will first of all consider what
happened to Christ from a purely human perspective and then from a
The Human Causes of Jesus' Death
the accounts in the Gospels the following are the human factors that
contributed to Jesus' death:
Activity of the Jewish Religious & Secular Leaders
see in what follows the involvement of religious groups – including
Pharisees and chief priests, and the secular groups referred to as
the ‘elders' and the Sanhedrin (ruling council which comprised religious
and secular leaders)
doubt Jesus had been challenging the religious leaders:
from the point when he first upset the Temple traders (Jn 2:14-16)
by healing on the Sabbath (Jn 5:16-18)
by getting the crowds to believe he was the Messiah (Jn 7:26-31)
by claiming to be greater than Abraham (Jn 8:52-58)
by implying he was God (Jn 10:31-33)
he was a threat and a challenge to their self-centred religiosity
and they were also envious of his popular acclaim. (see Mt 27:18 Pilate
“knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.”)
was particular acute when he was in Jerusalem and in the later year
of his ministry:
day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers
of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.
Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung
on his words
Building towards a climax
some of them went to the Pharisees and told them
what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees
called a meeting of the Sanhedrin . "What
are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing
many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will
believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away
both our place and our nation."
everything else was the fear that Jesus might provoke an uprising
and thus cause the Romans to react harshly and come against the nation,
against Jerusalem and against the Temple (which of course did eventually
happen in AD70)
one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest
that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize
that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that
the whole nation perish."
is clear that the religious leaders saw that Jesus' death was worth
it if it could save the nation.
did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied
that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that
nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together
and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take
apostle John, with remarkable insight born of years of contemplating
what had gone on, sees this as prophecy about a) what would happen
and b) what its effect would be.
should also note that the religious leaders manipulated the
crowd to put pressure on the procurator to have Jesus executed:
chief priests and the elders persuaded
the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus
inactivity of the Roman Political Leader
is sometimes wrongly said that the Jews were responsible for Jesus'
death. We all were, Jew AND Gentile. The Gentile part of the human
race was represented by the might of Rome in the form of the procurator,
Pontius Pilate, and his battle hardened soldiers who, when told to
crucify someone, did it without thought.
guilt was to seek to absolve himself of any blame:
he declared he could find nothing wrong with Jesus and yet
gave way to the baying crowd and gave Jesus over to be crucified.
publicly washing his hands (literally) demonstrating the world's opinion
of Jesus' death – it's not my fault – but it was and is.
The Plan of God at the Heart of the Cross
the Day of Pentecost the apostle Peter under the anointing of the
Holy Spirit declared the threefold work of the Father (God) in heaven,
presiding over what went on in respect of His Son on earth:
of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by
miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him,
as you yourselves know. (v.22)
man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge
; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him
to death by nailing him to the cross .
God raised him from the dead , freeing him from the
agony of death. (v.24)
God revealed His Son through the signs and wonders He enabled him
But then He “handed him over” – language of handing over a criminal
– to be executed
He then raised him from the dead to reveal (prove) who he was and
affirm that he had done the will of God.
God's activity in that way, it is clear that in 1 & 3 the Father
is upholding and glorifying and vindicating the Son
by His power in Jesus' ministry before his death,
by His power used to raise Jesus from the dead
(see also Rom 8:11)
in 2 He ‘handed him over' to be crucified .
It is the reasoning behind that action, that judgment that transformed
history and made the New Testament so different from the Old, that
stirred heretics in the first century, misunderstanding this, to feel
it necessary to invent two different Gods.
crucial words are, “ This man was
handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge.”
we start scanning the New Testament for conformation of this, we find
a remarkable set of verses covering the wide spectrum of what contributes
to our salvation:
loved me before the creation of the world
Jesus with Father in loving relationship BEFORE Creation
Pet 1:20 He
was chosen before the creation of the world
The Godhead agreed Jesus was the means of salvation BEFORE Creation
he chose us in him before the creation of the world
They agreed how we would come, and saw who would come BEFORE Creation
inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the
book of life from the creation of the world
They saw who would not come BEFORE Creation
Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world
They agreed Jesus would die BEFORE Creation
Tim 1:9 This
grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time
They agreed God's grace would be given us BEFORE Creation
life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of
They agreed thy would give us eternal life BEFORE Creation
the authors of these verses: John, Peter & Paul, the main and
key apostles in the New Testament.
cannot emphasise strongly enough that it was God's plan for Jesus
to die on the Cross in our place, a plan formulated even before God
brought the world into being. It was no accident of history.
the ‘judgment' was made by Father, Son and Holy Spirit before the
world came into being.
The Real Reason for the Death of Jesus Christ.
we have touched on some of these things before earlier in this book,
but we need to bring them together here to focus on a dilemma that
has caused philosophers and theologians alike to stumble through the
centuries. First let's consider some of the things the Bible tells
us (as we said very early on n the book everything we say comes out
of the Bible).
Fundamental Truths in the Bible
A Perfect Loving God
God does no wrong and whatever He does cannot
be improved upon AND every expression of His is an expression of love.
When He created the world He gave mankind free
will. If man was to truly be man and not a robot, (capable of receiving
and giving love) he had to have this free will and yet that also enabled
man to act against God and against His design, i.e. to sin, to do
This was the dilemma in the heart of God before
The problem was that justice would demand that
the wrongs done by mankind (their sins) be punished.
The Sinless Son of God
The answer to this dilemma is revealed through
a picture early in the Old Testament that was applied in New Testament
In the Old Testament, as part of the Exodus process
(see Ex 12), a lamb had to be killed and its blood smeared on the
doorposts of the home of the Israelite so that when the destroying
angel ‘passed-over' the land killing the first born son of every family
in Egypt, and saw the blood, he would ‘pass-over' that home and leave
The sacrificial lamb was thus seen as the means
or sign for salvation for each home – a life given that another life
(the eldest) son could be spared.
The New Testament also reveals Jesus as “the
Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29,36, Rev 5:6,8,12), our Passover Lamb (1 Cor
5:7) who stood in to take our death.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was without sin
(1 Pet 1:19, Heb 4:15), the only sinless person on earth and thus
the only perfect ‘lamb' who could act in that role.
Justice demands the guilty are dealt with
This ultimately is what is behind all of this.
There is a concept known to all of us called
‘justice' that calls for fairness, for a balancing out of wrongs by
either punishment or restitution or restoration.
Justice demands someone is punished for their
sins committed, and the Bible declares that Jesus was judged so that
we would not be.
and again the message is there in the New Testament in a variety of
Christ died for sins" 1
Pet 3: 18
who came “in the likeness of sinful
men - to be a sin offering” Rom 8:3
“God made him sin who had no sin”
2 Cor 5:21
Language of Theology
uses various words to describe what went on, for example,
to appease, to atone, to
make up for
Rom 3:25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement
to demonstrate his justice
MUST be punished for justice to be done.
sin MUST be punished
sin WAS punished in Jesus on the Cross
has been seen to be done
a bringing together a perfect
God with imperfect beings (by means of Jesus' death)
is reconciled to man (we were his enemies)
had been affronted by our sin
that sin has been dealt with God is now free to come to us
and receive us to Himself
2 Cor 5:19,20 we are reconciled to God, the way is now
open, we may now come back to God
to buy back something, in this
case lost sinners on death row.
20:28 bought with Jesus' blood (also 1 Cor
therefore belong to him
20:28 Jesus ransomed us from Satan's dominion
have been set free from sin & death
to be put right in the eyes
of the Law, just as if it had not happened
13:39 Jesus, taking our sin, did what the Law could not do, justify
3:24 Jesus act of atonement justifies us.
we are reconciled to God, we are redeemed, we are justified because
Jesus Christ was judged before the foundation of the world and agreed
to take our sin, our guilt and our punishment.
do we speak about it in such terms but Jesus dying on the Cross was
an act of judgment. If it was anything less then there is no way that
any human being can stand, with the awareness of being a sinner, before
the claims of justice.
because these things are so difficult for the human mind to comprehend
(because we are all tainted by sin), let's try and give a picture
from a courtroom:
A man has been caught with a smouldering gun in his hand before his
dying wife and he confesses to the police, “I could not stop myself,
I was so angry with her.” As he stands in the dock in the courtroom
all of his body language speaks of guilt. He is guilty, he feels guilty
and the world knows he is guilty and as he stands there he exudes
guilt. It's like he is clothed in guilt and the law demands that a
guilty person be punished.
imagine Jesus Christ standing before Pontius Pilate. He stands there
in perfect righteousness, for the New Testament tells us he was sinless.
He never thought, said or did a wrong thing. He was, and is, the perfect
Son of God. He is the only person who could stand in a courtroom and
be free from guilt.
imagine your sin, small on just one day but massive when you add up
every wrong thought, every wrong attitude, every wrong word, every
wrong action, of yours since you were born, added up and written on
a large white wall. The small writing fills every square inch of the
wall; it is a wall that displays your guilt. But then we see that
in fact the writing is in fact on a large white cloth that covers
the wall. We display it like that in this way in this illustration
because we are so blinded by Sin that we fail to see our guilt.
imagine this massive sheet is lifted off the wall and hung around
your shoulders like a robe and you are made to stand in the dock wearing
it. The judge, who is God and who knows all things, asks you, “Does
this robe truly represent your life? Is this how you have been throughout
your life?” Truth demands you reply with honesty with a single word:
the judge has the time to speak another word to pronounce judgment
on you, another figure slips into the dock, takes the ‘robe' from
around your shoulders, puts it on his own, and quickly ushers you
out of the dock and then stands there facing the judge. It is Jesus
Christ who now wears your guilt.
Judge, who knows all things, asks the one in the dock, “Do you take
responsibility for all these wrongs you carry? Are they yours? Will
you take the punishment for them?” The reply comes clearly from the
Son of God in the dock, “I do, they are, and I will.” The Judge pauses
and then responds, “Then I sentence you with the only judgment that
is open to me, and that is your death,” and the condemned man is led
away to be crucified. That is essentially what happened on Good Friday,
although it had been decided upon before the world ever came into
is the testimony of the New Testament:
LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
bore the sin of many
the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world
Cor 5:21 God
made him who had no sin to be sin for us
redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,
for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree
was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people
Pet 2:24 He
himself bore our sins in his body on the tree
only inadequacy of this picture above, I believe, is that I have shown
just one man in the dock. The truth is that every person in the entire
world stands in the dock before God and carries their guilt.
ones who are dismissed from the dock and declared free are ones who
declare, “I am guilty,” and who then allow Jesus Christ to draw alongside
them and take their guilt off so he may carry it.
who refuse to acknowledge their guilt and who consequently refuse
to let Jesus take their guilt, remain in the dock and receive the
condemnation and the sentence of death that justice demands.
is nothing unkind or harsh about God in His capacity as a Judge here,
for Father and Son have done all they can to ensure justice is done
while guilty sinners are freed. Those who refuse to accept their guilt
and refuse to accept Jesus, choose their own outcome; it is their
we may struggle to understand it (because as the apostle Paul put
it, “ Jews
demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach
Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”
– 1 Cor 1:22,23) this is the truth
the Bible declares.
Minimise the Cross
our short-sightedness we might think, “Well, Jesus was the almighty
Son of God and so he knew that he would go through death and come
out the other side so it wasn't much of a ‘punishment' was it, it
wasn't much of a judgment!”
are two aspects of the relationship between the Father and the Son
that answer that. They are:
the goodness of God and
the wonder of the relationship between the
Father and the Son.
The Goodness of God
is perhaps almost impossible for us to comprehend what it is to be
perfect and free from sin and then have the world's sin put upon us
as we saw in the verses above.
you are someone who takes delight in wearing spotless clothes that
are perfect and then a visitor spills blackcurrant juice down you.
Or maybe you are a furniture maker and you create a perfect period
chair with beautiful tapestry seat and covers and again your visitor
spills red wine all over it.
are very inadequate pictures but they may help point us in the right
direction. God AND Jesus are perfect in every way and utterly free
from any moral imperfections and then one day Jesus has to wear (to
use our picture analogy above) a ‘robe' covered with your sin and
every one else's sin.
use another awful analogy, suppose you are someone, let's say a lady,
who has just got ready for a wedding, and you have showered and smell
beautiful and put on the most beautiful new clothes and are perfect,
but in comes a drunken guest who is still hung over from last night's
bad stag party and as he stands in front of you he is violently sick
all over you. The stench and the contents of what is all over you
are you may be catching a little something of what it must have been
like for Jesus, the spotless Son of God, who came from a perfect existence
in heaven, not only to have lived in this imperfect fallen world for
some thirty years, but now he is covered with your sin and my sin
and a horrible sense of guilt that accompanies it. Tell me this isn't
a real punishment and I will tell you that you don't understand a
glimmer of what it was to have been perfect but now covered with Sin.
The wonder of the relationship between the Father and the Son
Father and the Son have lived in heaven in perfect unity since before
the Creation of the world. John's Gospel shows us that Jesus existed
in heaven as the unique Son of God before he came to earth in human
form. They have lived in total harmony since the point where the Son
was begotten of the Father (begotten means ‘comes out of' as in the
really struggle with what the Incarnation means, that the unique Son
of God who had lived in eternity with the Father is able to leave
heaven and dwell in limited human form for some thirty three years
on earth and yet remain God, but the Bible tells us that that is what
happened. That was the first division of the Son
from the Father, yet united by the Holy Spirit.
then something happens on the Cross as Jesus bore
our sins in his body on the tree. Suddenly
on the Cross the Son cries out, “My
God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” (Mt 27:46). Now
many years ago I was preparing for a youth service and was producing
a visual to try and convey something of what those verses above meant
and so I had two pictures of Jesus hanging on the Cross but on the
second picture I took a black marker pen and scribbled all over the
picture of him on the Cross so that you could hardly make out the
figure there as I sought to convey God
made him who had no sin to be sin for us, and I saw something.
was like, as the sin of the world was put upon Jesus, it covered him
and was so terrible (beyond our imagination) that it was like it covered
him and for that time on the Cross, as that happened it was like it
was so terrible that the ‘human' Son of God could not see through
it and it felt like he was alone and for the first time in his history
he could not sense the presence of the Father because he was so overwhelmed
by this awful presence of the world's Sin and so the cry is the cry
of what he felt at that moment.
the father was there but perhaps He too struggled to see through the
awfulness of the world's Sin that covered His Son. For the first time
in their history the Father and Son felt apart, felt divided and it
was the Sin of the world that did it. This was the terrible cost of
allowing mankind free will from the beginning, free will that led
to sin, which led to justice crying out to be appeased. That was the
second division of the Father from the Son.
then we move into even more unclear territory because there is just
a hint in that Jesus descended into hell – “He
was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through
whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed
long ago.” (1 Pet 3:18-20). It makes sense that if he
was to take the full impact of our punishment then he would also go
to hell to experience it there. As I said, we move into unclear territory
but if this was so, then that would be the third ‘division'
or ‘separation' of the Father and Son.
we respond to these things indicates just where we are in respect
of God's salvation. The apostle Paul wrote, “
the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
(1 Cor 1:18) If these things seem foolishness to you, you are far
from Him, but if you can say, “Yes, I can see it!” then you are close
to receiving His salvation or have already received it.
this chapter I have sought to convey what happened to Jesus Christ
in what I have termed his judgment on our behalf. We saw the human
causes for his death and then we went on to see the spiritual causes,
the causes worked out in heaven before the creation of the world but
then worked out on earth just two thousand years ago.
saw God's perfection and our sinfulness and the chasm between us and
we saw how Jesus came, using a courtroom analogy, and took our sins
and guilt upon himself as he took our punishment on the Cross. In
doing that we caught something of the awfulness, first of all, of
the spotless Son of God taking the Sin of the world on himself on
the Cross, and then of the division that this caused between Father
and Son, a division first as he left heaven to live in human form
for thirty three years of our time, then the division as he took our
Sin on himself which came between him and his Father, and then the
division as he went to hell to carry our guilt there, before being
raised to life (in the resurrection) and then raised back to his former
glory in heaven (in the ascension).
of this is what was involved when the Son took the ultimate judgment
of God on the Cross as, in Isaiah's words, the
LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all and he took
it for us. Thus are fulfilled what are possibly the best known verses
of the New Testament: “For God so
loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did
not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save
the world through him.” (Jn 3:16,17)
judgment of the righteous for the unrighteous, the perfect for the
imperfect, is without doubt the most amazing thing in all history.
How we respond to it reveals our state before God.
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