Questions and Answers (9:5)

Lou: All right, another question. “You mentioned that Jesus’ death was the results of sin. Was His death not also the wages of sin? If Jesus died the second death (the wages of sin) how was it that He could be raised from the second death from which there is no resurrection?”
Graham: In this one question are represented two understandings of what went wrong in the universe. Are we in legal trouble, or are we in real trouble? The “results” suggest real trouble. That calls for healing more than just an adjustment of our legal standing. But we could use “wages” either way and “results” either way. So we need to keep going back to our understanding of what went wrong in God’s universe. Our understanding of what went wrong helps us understand what it takes to set it right and keep it right.
Now if Jesus had died the second death legally, and if the second death meant you never rise again, He should still be in the tomb. When He returned to heaven and asked, “Was it enough? Have I answered your questions?” The angels should have said, “You get right back down. You’ve got to pay this penalty for eternity.” Since that didn’t happen, the angels must not have been looking for a legal payment. They were looking for answers, and when they got them, they were satisfied.
Lou: This question ties right into that. “Did Jesus die the first death or the second death for us?”
Graham: The first death is the death from which there is a resurrection. Thousands of people have been crucified. If Jesus had only been crucified, it would have been the first death. But He died the awful death of being given up. God’s wrath was poured out on Him, God giving Him up like He will give up rebels in the end. He was made to be sin though He knew no sin (2 Cor 5:21). But everything that happened on the cross was answering the questions. “Does sin result in death?” Yes. Is it torture at the hand of God? No. Who did torture Him? Those who served God from fear did it. And once these questions were answered, why stay in the tomb? He did stay over Sabbath to add still more significance to the Seventh Day, but He didn’t even wait for the sun to rise on Sunday morning. He went right up to Heaven to hear the universe tell Him that they understood.
Lou: So the problem of the resurrection really only comes when a person is locked into a legal model. “It couldn’t be the second death because then He couldn’t have come back from the dead.” But that is not a problem in the larger view.
Graham: That’s right.
Lou: All right, I think you’ve really clarified that. The same person also wanted to ask, “How does God forgive sins, and what is involved in receiving the remission of our sins?”
Graham: The word for “remission” really means forgiveness. It does not mean suppressing a problem for a little while, like the medical term. What’s involved in God forgiving? I believe God is forgiveness personified. Think of the prodigal son story. What had to be done for the father to receive his son back—dirty, and diseased and malnourished as he was? When the boy came home he found his father had forgiven him long before. In fact, it was only when he found out that his father had forgiven him that he really repented. With God it’s not, “If I repent, He’ll forgive me.” Rather, it’s when I find how forgiving He is, that leads me to repentance.
Lou: Here’s a question related to the previous chapter: “Are you suggesting that God has angels who go against the law and kill, such as His angel of death? Does God have a ‘death squad?’”
Graham: It comes back to the meaning of the word, “Thou shalt not kill.” In both the Hebrew and the Greek, that’s not the general word for killing, it is “murder.” “Thou shall not commit murder.” And that’s why Jesus could say, “If you hate your brother, you’ve broken that command. He who hates his brother is a murderer.” There is no commandment that simply says, “You should not kill.” There is a commandment, “You shalt not murder.” The same angels that put many of God’s children asleep will also raise them in the resurrection.
Lou: But they’re not “breaking God’s law. . .”
Graham: They’re not breaking the sixth commandment. And in the end, when the wicked die, it’s not a violation of God’s commandment either.
Lou: Couldn’t God have forgiven us without Jesus having to die?
Graham: He could have forgiven us to be sure; in fact, He did. But the questions were out there. And those questions were so potentially destructive that until the questions were answered the seeds of distrust and sin and rebellion would remain in the universe. I believe that even if Lucifer had repented and come back, Jesus would have needed to answer the questions. Once the questions were asked, you could count on God to answer them, no matter what it cost, and He did it.
Lou: Someone wrote: “There’s a lot of meaning in why we should keep the Sabbath, but it’s the specifying of the day that seems arbitrary, why should we keep the seventh day when most of the Christian world keeps the first? Why couldn’t we keep the first day the same way we keep the seventh? What difference does it make?”
Graham: That is the topic of the next chapter. The reason for bringing the Sabbath in at this point is that nothing has been misrepresented as more arbitrary about God than the Sabbath command. So I bring it in as a test case. I believe the Sabbath is actually a remedy for this misunderstanding. It is a reminder of the evidence that God is not arbitrary.

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