Was Jesus' death on the cross the most desired Will of God? Let us first examine the words and deeds of the disciples as recorded in the Bible. There was one unanimous feeling evident among the disciples concerning the death of Jesus: they were grief-stricken and indignant. Stephen, for example, burned with indignation over the ignorance and disbelief of the Jewish leaders, and he condemned their actions, calling them murderers and rebels.7(Acts 7:51-53)RS|KJ|NI Christians since then have commonly shared the same feelings as the disciples of Jesus' day. If Jesus' death had been the foreordained outcome for the fulfillment of God's Will, then it might have been natural for the disciples to grieve over his death, but they would not have been so bitterly resentful over it, nor so angry at those Jewish leaders who caused it. We can infer from their bitter reaction that Jesus' death was unjust and undue.
Next, let us examine from the viewpoint of God's providence whether the crucifixion of Jesus was inevitable as the predestined Will of God. God called the chosen people of Israel out of the descendants of Abraham. He protected them, nurtured them, and at times disciplined them with tribulations and trials. God sent prophets to comfort them with the unshakable promise that one day He would send them a Messiah. He prepared them to receive the Messiah by having them build the Tabernacle and the Temple. When Jesus was born, God proclaimed his advent. He sent the three wise men from the East as well as Simon, Anna, John the Baptist and others to testify widely. Concerning John the Baptist in particular, many people knew that an angel had appeared and testified to his conception.8(Luke 1:13)RS|KJ|NI The miracles surrounding his birth stirred all of Judea in expectation.9(Luke 1:63-66)RS|KJ|NI Furthermore, John's ascetic life in the wilderness was so impressive that many people questioned in their hearts whether perhaps he was the Christ.10(Luke 3:15)RS|KJ|NI God's purpose behind sending such a great personality as John the Baptist to bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah was to encourage the Jewish people to believe in Jesus. Since God's Will was thus to have the Jewish people of that time believe that Jesus was their Messiah, the Jewish people, who were trained to live by God's Will, should have believed in him. Had they believed in him as God desired, would they have even entertained the thought of sending him to the cross? Would they have wanted any harm to come to the Messiah whom they had so long and eagerly awaited? However, because they went against God's Will and did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, he was delivered to be crucified. We must understand, therefore, that Jesus did not come to die on the cross.
Next, let us examine the words and deeds of Jesus himself to ascertain whether his crucifixion was in fact the way to completely accomplish his mission as the Messiah. Jesus' words and deeds were meant to engender belief on the part of the people that he was the Messiah. For example, when the people asked him what they must do to be doing the works of God, Jesus replied:
This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. -John 6:29RS|KJ|NI
One day, when he was agonizing over the Pharisees' disbelief and having no one with whom to share his heart, Jesus looked down sadly over the city of Jerusalem. He wept as he lamented the fate of the Jewish people, whom God had so laboriously and lovingly guided for two thousand years. Jesus prophesied that the city would be so utterly laid waste that not one stone would be left upon another. He clearly pointed to the ignorance of the people, saying, "you did not know the time of your visitation."11(Luke 19:44)RS|KJ|NI On another occasion, Jesus lamented the stubbornness and disbelief of the people of Jerusalem, saying:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! -Matt. 23:37RS|KJ|NI
Jesus reproached the people who refused to believe in him, even though they were familiar with the Scriptures which testified to him:
You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. -John 5:39-40RS|KJ|NI
I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me . . . if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. -John 5:43-46RS|KJ|NI
How many miracles and signs did Jesus perform in his desperate efforts to lift the people from their disbelief! Yet, even as they were witnessing the wondrous works of Jesus, the religious leaders mocked him as one possessed by Beelzebul.12(Matt. 12:24)RS|KJ|NIIn the midst of such a wretched situation, Jesus cried out:
Even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. -John 10:38RS|KJ|NI
Then, confronting his opponents, he scathingly denounced their hypocrisy.13(Matt. 23:13-36)RS|KJ|NI Through his words and deeds, Jesus tried to bring his people to believe in him, because it was God's Will that they do so. If they had followed God's Will and believed in Jesus as their Messiah, then who among them would have dared to send him to the cross?
From all the above evidence, we can deduce that Jesus' death on the cross was the unfortunate outcome of the ignorance and disbelief of the people of his day; it was not necessary for the complete fulfillment of his mission as the Messiah. This is well illustrated by Jesus' last words on the cross:
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. -Luke 23:34RS|KJ|NI
If God had originally predestined Jesus to die on the cross, Jesus would have expected to go that path as his due course. Why, then, did he pray three times, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt"?14(Matt. 26:39)RS|KJ|NI In truth, Jesus offered those desperate prayers because he knew well that his death would shatter the hope of attaining the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. This would be a tragic disappointment to God, who had worked so laboriously to realize this hope through the long ages since the Fall. Furthermore, Jesus knew that humanity's afflictions would continue unrelieved until the time of his Second Coming.
Jesus said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up."15(John 3:14)RS|KJ|NI When the Israelites lost faith in Moses on the way to Canaan, fiery serpents appeared and began to kill them. God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole, so that all who looked upon the serpent might live.16(Num. 21:4-9)RS|KJ|NI Similarly, Jesus foresaw that due to the chosen people's failure to believe in him, humankind would be consigned to hell. He foresaw that he would then be nailed to the cross like the bronze serpent in order to save all humankind, granting salvation to all who look to him. Foreseeing this eventuality, Jesus uttered this foreboding prophecy with a mournful heart.
Another indication that Jesus' death on the cross was not the Will of God, but rather due to the disbelief of the people, is that Israel declined after the crucifixion.17(Luke 19:44)RS|KJ|NI After all, it had been prophesied that Jesus would come and sit on the throne of David and establish an everlasting kingdom:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. -Isa. 9:6-7RS|KJ|NI
An angel appeared to Mary prior to Jesus' conception and made a similar prediction:
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. -Luke 1:31-33RS|KJ|NI
God's clear intention for the chosen people of Israel, whom He had led through all manner of difficulty from the time of Abraham, was to send them a Messiah and build an eternal Kingdom on earth. Nevertheless, when the Jewish leadership persecuted Jesus and led him to the cross, Israel lost its qualification to be the founding nation of God's Kingdom. Within a few generations, the people of Israel would be scattered over the face of the earth. They have suffered oppression and persecution ever since. This can be viewed as the tragic consequence of the mistake their ancestors committed when they condemned to death the Messiah, whom they should have honored, thereby preventing the completion of the providence of restoration. Moreover, not only the Jews, but also many faithful Christians have shouldered the cross as their portion for the collective sin of having killed Jesus.
The Limit of Salvation through Redemption by the Cross
and the Purpose of Jesus' Second Advent
What would have happened if Jesus had not been crucified? Jesus would have accomplished both the spiritual and physical aspects of salvation. He surely would have established the everlasting and indestructible Kingdom of Heaven on earth. This, after all, had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, announced by the angel who appeared to Mary, and expressed by Jesus himself when he announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.18(Isa. 9:6-7)RS|KJ|NI; (Luke 1:31-33)RS|KJ|NI; (Matt. 4:17)RS|KJ|NI
When God created man, "the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."19(Gen. 2:7)RS|KJ|NI Human beings were thus created in both spirit and flesh. Their Fall also happened both spiritually and physically. Since Jesus came to bring full salvation, he was responsible to complete it both spiritually and physically. To believe in Jesus means to become one with him. Hence, Jesus likened himself to a true vine and compared his disciples to its branches.20(John 15:5)RS|KJ|NI He also said, "In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."21(John 14:20)RS|KJ|NI In order to save fallen people physically as well as spiritually, it was necessary that Jesus come in the flesh. Had the people believed in Jesus and so united with him in both spirit and flesh, they would have received salvation both spiritually and physically. Yet the people did not believe in Jesus; instead they led him to the cross. Jesus' body was exposed to Satan's assault, and he was killed. Therefore, even when faithful Christians are united with Jesus, their bodies remain exposed to Satan's attack, just as was Jesus' body.
Consequently, no matter how devout a believer may be, he cannot attain physical salvation through redemption by the cross of Jesus. His original sin, which has been passed down through the lineage from Adam, is not eliminated at its root. Even the most devout Christian still has the original sin and gives birth to children who also carry the original sin. In our personal faith, we may feel it necessary to mortify and deny our flesh in our efforts to prevent the intrusion of Satan, who continually tries to ensnare us through our bodies. We are taught to "pray constantly"22(I Thess. 5:17)RS|KJ|NI that we might remove the conditions by which Satan can attack us; these conditions stem from the original sin, which was not eradicated despite salvation through redemption by the cross.
Jesus could not fulfill the goal of complete salvation, both spiritual and physical, because his body was struck down by Satan. However, Jesus laid the basis for spiritual salvation by securing the victorious foundation for his resurrection through the redemption by his blood on the cross. As a result, all believers since his resurrection have received the benefit of spiritual salvation, but not physical salvation. Salvation through redemption by the cross is spiritual salvation only. The original sin remains active in the flesh of even the most devout Christians and is transmitted through the lineage to their descendants. The more fervent a believer's faith, the more fiercely he must fight against the sin within. Even St. Paul, the most devout among the apostles, lamented over his inability to prevent sin from infiltrating his flesh:
For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. -Rom. 7:22-25RS|KJ|NI
This statement contrasts the bliss Paul felt upon receiving spiritual salvation with the agony he felt because he was unable to achieve physical salvation. John also confessed:
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. . . . If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. -I John 1:8-10RS|KJ|NI
We who receive salvation based on Jesus' crucifixion cannot unshackle ourselves from the chains of sin, due to the original sin still active deep within us. Therefore, to uproot the original sin, which he could not remove through the crucifixion, and to complete the work of physical salvation, Jesus must come again on earth. Only then will the purpose of God's work of salvation be fulfilled both spiritually and physically.
Two Kinds of Prophecies Concerning the Cross
If Jesus' death on the cross were not predestined as necessary for the complete accomplishment of his purpose as the Messiah, why was it prophesied in Isaiah that he would suffer the ordeal of the cross?23(Isa. 53)RS|KJ|NIWe may think that the Bible contains only prophecies which foretold Jesus' suffering. However, when we read the Bible anew with knowledge of the Principle, we realize there are other prophecies to the contrary. As Isaiah prophesied24(Isa. 9RS|KJ|NI, Isa.11RS|KJ|NI, Isa.60)RS|KJ|NIand as the angel announced to Mary,25(Luke 1:31-33)RS|KJ|NIit was foretold that Jesus would become the king of the Jews in his lifetime and establish an everlasting kingdom on the earth. Let us investigate why God gave two contrasting kinds of prophecies concerning Jesus.
God created human beings to reach perfection only by fulfilling their own portion of responsibility.
In reality, the first human ancestors did not fulfill their responsibility and fell. Thus, human beings have the potential to either accomplish their responsibility in accordance with God's Will or fail their responsibility contrary to God's Will.
To take some examples from the Bible, it was Adam's portion of responsibility not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He either could obey the commandment of God and reach perfection or eat of the fruit and die. He chose the latter. In the Old Testament Age, God gave the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law, which the people were to obey as the condition for their salvation. It was their portion of responsibility to either uphold the Law and receive salvation or disobey it and come to ruin.27(Deut. 30:15-20)RS|KJ|NI For the Israelites who left Egypt and journeyed toward Canaan, it was their responsibility to obey the instructions of Moses. They could either faithfully comply with Moses' directions and enter the land of Canaan or rebel against him and not enter the promised land. In fact, God had foretold that He would guide the Israelites into the land of Canaan28(Exod. 3:8)RS|KJ|NI and commanded Moses to lead them there. Yet due to their lack of faith, the people perished in the wilderness, leaving only their descendants to reach the final destination.
Human beings thus have their own portion of responsibility; they can either fulfill it in accordance with God's Will or fail to fulfill it contrary to His Will. The nature of the fruits they bear depends upon whether or not they fulfill their portion of responsibility. For this reason, God gave two kinds of prophecies concerning the accomplishment of His Will.
To send the Messiah is God's portion of responsibility. However, belief in the Messiah is the human portion of responsibility. The Jewish people could either believe in the Messiah as God wished or not believe in him in opposition to His desire. To cope with the contingency of human responsibility, God gave two kinds of prophecies concerning the accomplishment of His Will through Jesus. One kind foretold that Jesus would die due to the disbelief of the people.29(Isa. 53)RS|KJ|NI Another kind foretold that the people would believe in and honor Jesus as the Messiah and help him to accomplish God's Will in glory.30(Isa. 9RS|KJ|NI, Isa. 11RS|KJ|NI, Isa. 60)RS|KJ|NI; (Luke 1:31)RS|KJ|NI When Jesus died on the cross due to the disbelief of the people, only the prophecies of the first kind were fulfilled. The prophecies of the second kind were left unfulfilled until the Second Coming of Christ.
Gospel Passages in Which Jesus Spoke of His Crucifixion as if It Were Necessary
There are several passages in the Gospels in which Jesus spoke of his suffering on the cross as if it were necessary for salvation. For example, when Peter heard Jesus' prediction of his imminent crucifixion and tried to dissuade him, Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me."31(Matt. 16:23)RS|KJ|NI Why did Jesus chastise Peter so harshly? In truth, when Jesus spoke these words, the disbelief of the chosen people had already frustrated Jesus' efforts to complete the providence of salvation both physically and spiritually. By that time, Jesus had resolutely determined to accept the fate of the cross32(Luke 9:31)RS|KJ|NI as a condition of indemnity to open the way for at least the spiritual salvation of humankind. Peter's dissuasion could have hindered Jesus from paving the way for spiritual salvation through the cross. For this reason, Jesus rebuked him.
A second example is Jesus' last words on the cross, "It is finished."33(John 19:30)RS|KJ|NI Jesus did not utter these words to mean that through the crucifixion he had completely accomplished the providence of salvation. After he realized that the people's disbelief was unalterable, he chose the path of the cross in order to lay the foundation for spiritual salvation, leaving unfulfilled the task of achieving physical salvation until the time of the Second Advent. Hence, by the words, "It is finished," Jesus meant that he had finished laying the foundation for spiritual salvation. By this time, it had become the alternative goal of the providence.
In order for us to have proper faith, it is necessary first to have direct communion with God through spiritual experiences in prayer, and then to understand the truth through a correct reading of Scripture. This is the reason Jesus told us to worship in "spirit and truth."34(John 4:24)RS|KJ|NI
Since the time of Jesus, Christians have believed that Jesus came to this world to die on the cross. They have not known the fundamental purpose for which Jesus came as the Messiah and misunderstood the spiritual salvation which he brought us, thinking it to be all that his mission entailed. Jesus had wanted to live and fulfill his destiny, yet due to the people's disbelief in him, he died with a heart full of disappointment. Today, there must appear on earth faithful brides - pure-hearted believers - who can alleviate the bitter and grieving heart of Jesus. There must appear brides who can exalt the desires of Jesus' heart before Jesus can come again as the bridegroom. Yet Jesus lamented, "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?"35(Luke 18:8)RS|KJ|NI for he foresaw that when he returned the people would likely be in darkness.
We have clarified from our study of the Bible that Jesus did not come to die on the cross. We can ascertain this fact even more clearly if we communicate with Jesus spiritually and ask him directly. If we cannot perceive spiritual realities, we should seek out the testimonies of those who are endowed with such gifts in order to properly understand his heart and deepen our faith. Only then will we be worthy to become the brides of Jesus who can receive him in the Last Days.
Exposition of the Divine Principle
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