For those who have come to trust in and follow Jesus, our faith rests on the answer to one seemingly radical question—what did the death of Jesus accomplish?
That might seem like a strange question because when most people we know die, we don't ask what their death accomplished. When death strikes, we see it as a loss, not an accomplishment.
But Jesus’ death was totally unique—because Jesus is totally unique, being fully God and fully man. We often refer to Jesus as “the Christ,” which means the anointed one of God. He is God’s promised rescuer for humanity (Genesis 3:15).
For those who trust in him, his death accomplished something. It accomplished the most important victory imaginable (1 Corinthians 15:57).
So, what did Jesus’ death accomplish? To understand the Bible’s answer to this question, let’s use an illustration.
Imagine you were given a brand-new car as a gift. Suppose that new car had all the latest and greatest features, and it came with an endless supply of gas. The car is not the only gift then, but with the car you also receive all the possible experiences you can have because of where the car can take you.
Suppose there is one catch—you find out that the car has no engine. The moment you realize this, everything else about the car becomes worthless. You have no hope of arriving at any of the destinations you have in mind. What good is a shiny expensive new car if it doesn’t have an engine?
When we ask what the death of Jesus accomplished, we find that the Bible offers a multitude of answers—think of them like nice features on the new car.
- Jesus’ death ransomed us from this present evil world and from Satan, the ruler of this world (Galatians 1:4; Hebrews 2:14) .
- Jesus’ death and resurrection also brought new life, both spiritually and physically, to his followers (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Timothy 2:11; 1 John 5:11-12).
- Jesus’ death also served as an example and the dawning of the new kind of humanity that Jesus came to establish (1 Corinthians 15:44-49; 1 Peter 2:21-24).
But there’s one reality in the New Testament that serves as the engine, or foundation, for all those other wonderful benefits.
More than anything else, Jesus died to reconcile us to God by atoning for our sins. This means he submitted to the full punishment that we deserved for our sins against God as a substitute on our behalf. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath on our behalf, as the Bible says (Matthew 26:42; John 18:11).
We owe an infinite debt to our creator because he is an infinite and holy God, and we have all rebelled and sinned against him. The Bible clearly states that the price of our penalty is nothing short of death and eternal punishment (Romans 6:23). But the Bible also says we can have redemption and the forgiveness of our trespasses “through his [Jesus’] blood… according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7 ESV).
The atoning work of Christ on our behalf serves as the engine of our faith and our hope. Someone had to pay our sin-debt. God paid it himself through Jesus. Without having our sins dealt with, we could never draw near to God or enjoy a relationship with him. We would never be able to drive the car and enjoy its features, so to speak.
All other benefits that we have gained, because of Jesus, stem from this one central reality—that Jesus Christ suffered and died in our place to pay the eternal penalty for our sins that we could never pay so that we might be reconciled to God.