The Ransom Theory

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark. 10:45).

- Mark 10:35–45

As we continue our study of the atonement of Jesus, we have already noted two things about Christ’s death on the cross. First of all, we have seen that the death of Christ should be understood as a means to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. Secondly, we have seen that Christ was our substitute, dying in our place in order to bear the punishment that our sins deserved and performing all that was necessary in order for us to be counted as righteous.

These two aspects of the Atonement should right away tell us that the Atonement was not a simple event that lacked depth and complexity. Rather, the full meaning of the Atonement is multifaceted. The New Testament witness to this event is not mono-chromatic but rather contains a variety of perspectives and descriptions of what exactly happened at the Cross.

Another way the New Testament looks at the Atonement is to view it as a cosmic victory of Jesus over Satan and his kingdom. Passages like Hebrews 2:14 tell us that when Christ died on the cross, He destroyed the power of the evil one.

The Atonement and its relation to the kingdom of Satan has been a hot topic in the history of Christian theology. One other view that has circulated in church history is that Christ’s death was a ransom paid to Satan. When Christ died, He paid a price to Satan in order to secure our release from bondage to Satan’s kingdom.

There are several problems with this view. First of all, the Bible does not speak of us owing Satan anything. Secondly, it gives Satan much more power and credit than he deserves. Finally, it neglects the biblical idea that any debt we owe is a debt owed to God.

Sinners are in bondage to Satan. But they are only in bondage because God has allowed them to be. The bondage mankind finds itself in is part of the punishment for sin. Payment is owed to God, not the Devil.

The Bible does view the Atonement as a ransom paid (see Mark 10:45). But it is a ransom paid to God the Father. There is no negotiation between the Devil and the Lord for the release of the captives. Rather, we are redeemed by having Christ crush the head of the serpent after He pays the ransom to God. And tomorrow we will look in more detail at how this ransom is paid.

Coram Deo

Our sin has made us debtors to God, not to Satan. Therefore, the ransom paid was paid to God the Father. At the Cross, Satan received nothing but the destruction of his power and the guarantee that his kingdom will be eliminated completely. Rejoice that Christ has destroyed all the power of the evil one.

Passages for Further Study

Gen. 3:14–15
Ps. 89:1–28
Col. 2:13–14
1 John 3:8b

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