Jesus said it was “necessary” that he suffer before entering his glory (Lk. 24:26). Likewise Paul said, “it was necessary for the Christ to suffer” (Acts 17:3). It happened “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23), and it was considered as of first importance: “that Christ died in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). The Messiah was sent according to a divine arrangement, which involves the sins of humanity, the holiness of God, and the judgment to come. The necessity of the death of the Messiah was based primarily upon the sacrificial reality (cf. Rom. 3:25; Eph. 5:2; Heb. 10:12), for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). Though generally foreign to the modern mind, atonement was the cornerstone of apostolic thought. Humanity is alienated before its Creator, and there is an ordained plan for reconciliation.
This sacrificial plan is laid out in the Old Testament through direct prophecies (cf. Is. 53; Ps. 22; Dan. 9) and by various types: the Passover Lamb (Ex. 12; 1 Cor. 5:7), the daily sacrifice (Ex. 29:38ff; Heb. 10:11), the snake on the pole (Num. 21; Jn. 3:14f), etc. In each of these situations, God is the one who decides how the effects of sin will be resolved. And it is always a straightforward arrangement. Those who accept his plan and obey are saved; those who reject it receive wrath. So also is the death of the Messiah understood as a straightforward prescription for the sin of man. As all are under divine condemnation and await eternal judgment (cf. Rom. 3; Eph. 2), “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Heb. 9:28) Those who accept the divine arrangement of the Cross by faith will be saved at the Day of the Lord (cf. Rom. 5:1-9; 9:30ff). Those who “set aside the grace of God” (Gal. 2:21) will be found on that Day with only “a righteousness of [their] own” (Phil. 3:9). Like those during the Passover who refused to put blood over their door, they will be found in violation of the arrangement. They will be considered “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18), and their end will be destruction. In such a light, let us believe the Scriptures and “submit to God’s righteousness” (Rom. 10:3). Let us leave behind our own schemes and press on by faith to take hold of the prize of eternal life (Phil. 3:13f).