And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy in their heads, they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10.)
Practically everybody has heard about people who kidnap another person and ask for a huge sum of money as ransom in exchange for the kidnapped person’s freedom or release. Unless ransomed, the kidnapped person could end up either as a slave to the kidnappers, being sold to others or, at worst, dead. At best, however, the duly constituted authorities could hunt down the kidnappers, apprehend them or execute them, and rescue the kidnap victim.
The late founder and pastor-general of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, wrote about Satan the devil having held captive or “kidnapped” the world, the entirety of mankind. [See this link: https://herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE and select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “A World Held Captive.” See also: Where Did the Devil Come From?]
True, by his subtle suggestions (“temptations”), Satan has wrested all of mankind from God’s household and brought all humanity under his dread sway (1 John 5:19). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!“ and Are We All God’s Children?] Like the children of Israel in Egypt, all men have been brought by Satan into his “house of bondage.”
The apostle Paul wrote about Satan snaring people so that they have become “captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). They have become his spiritual “prisoners” — and slaves! [See: Of Dungeons and Prisons.]
Included in Jesus’ avowed ministry as the Messiah was the “opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1; quoted in Luke 4:18). Jesus came primarily to release God’s chosen ones — and eventually, in God’s own time, all of mankind — from Satan’s spiritual prison house. [See: Predestination and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]
More than being a stern prison authority, Satan is described by Jesus as a “father” of all liars and murderers (John 8:41-44) — and all sinners, for that matter. But, unlike a loving father, Satan hates those who have become his “children” and seeks only their destruction. [However, Mr. Armstrong commented that, as Satan’s captives, men have grown to love their kidnapper and his evil ways! That’s how Satan has destroyed all of mankind. By urging mankind to sin, Satan has brought to men God’s death sentence, until Christ deals with them (Romans 6:23).]
As God’s arch-enemy, Satan is rightly called “Destroyer” (the meaning of the original words Abaddon [Hebrew] and Appolyon [Greek] as applied to Satan, Revelation 9:11). But, as the story of the Bible ends, Satan himself and his evil work will surely be destroyed when Jesus returns to take power, and rule this world. [See: World Peace — At Last!]
Ransomed from whom — or from what?
Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 both declare that, as the Son of Man, Jesus came “to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” The apostle Peter wrote that Christians [the “many” that are now ransomed as God’s “firstfruits” and others to follow later [see: Predestination], have been redeemed, not “with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from [their] aimless [no good] conduct received by tradition from [their] fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (2 Peter 1:18-19).
Both “ransom” and “redeem” as used in these Scripture passages come from the same Greek root word [lutroo], meaning “to loose” or “to free.” Certainly, by the power of His precious blood shed at Calvary, Jesus came to loose or free those who have been in Satan’s prison house. But the question is: did Jesus pay the “ransom” to mankind’s kidnapper, Satan? Some have suggested this.
But, does God owe Satan anything? Or isn’t it Satan who owes God everything?
According to God’s judgment, a human kidnapper doesn’t deserve any nice reward at all! Instead, God says: “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:18). The life of Christ as represented by His shed blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11) is not a ransom paid to Satan! Instead, Satan will have his day of judgment. He will answer for having snatched all of mankind from God’s household, as well as his other sins. [See: Two Goats Together, especially the section on “Satan’s fate,” and Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]
If Christ’s death wasn’t a ransom paid to Satan, then what did it pay for?
Man — a piece of “merchandise?”
A lot of people treat their fellowmen like so much merchandise [see: Is There Ever Any Good in Man?]. But in a spiritual sense, because all human beings have sinned [except Jesus Christ] (Romans 3:23; Hebrews 4:15), all have been “sold” to death (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4, 20).
The Jewish queen and heroine Esther told her Persian husband King Ahasuerus about the impending genocide of her fellow-Jews in the hands of cruel Haman: “For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, to be annihilated…” (Esther 7:4). [Happily for the Jews, God intervened to reverse the death sentence and the Jews gained the upper hand (Esther 7:5-10:3). Jews observe their holiday Purim to celebrate this God-given victory.]
Interestingly, another Greek word rendered as “redeemed” is agorazo [see: Revelation 5:9; 14:3, 4; Galatians 3:13; 4:5; Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5; 1 Peter 1:18] — from the root word agora. In modern English usage “agora” means “market” or “marketplace.”
Since all of mankind have sinned and rightly deserve the penalty of death, the only hope of man is through Christ redeeming or “buying back” man from death. The “price” He paid was His very precious life as the Son of Man and the Son of God.
The apostles Peter and Paul affirm that Jesus has “bought” or “purchased” sinners from death through His shed blood (2 Peter 2:1; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). In all the aforementioned passages the word “bought” is rendered from the Greek agorazo, the same word also rendered as “redeemed.”
Moments before He committed His spirit to God and breathed His last as He hung on the cross, Jesus said: “It is finished” (John 19:30). The phrase is rendered from the Greek tetelestai, from the root teleo, which means to complete or to pay fully. And the full price Jesus paid He paid to death, not to Satan! And thus mankind can have life everlasting.
More than mere merchandise!
Because Christ has redeemed, purchased, bought back — ransomed — mankind from death, beginning with God’s “firstfruits,” men have now transcended their mere and lowly status as dust or dirt, to become God’s very own children — to be given glory and everlasting life at Christ’s return, and beyond. [See: Are We All God’s Children? Predestination, and The Children of Abraham.]
When, “in the fullness of time,” all mankind will have been given each their chance to be saved by being ransomed by Christ from the penalty of death for sin, then will the prophecy in Isaiah 35:10 be completely fulfilled: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” [To understand better “the process of salvation,” see the section by that title in: Being and Doing.]
This joyful time will culminate in God the Father Himself coming down from heaven with the “New Jerusalem,” to dwell forever with glorified mankind on this renewed earth (Revelation 21:1-3). Verse 4 adds to Isaiah’s prophecy: “And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death [for those already saved!], nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
God speed up that day!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.