One day, while living in Seville, Spain, there was a knock at my door. It was two “Jehovah’s Witnesses”, a young girl and an older woman. We talked about several subjects. During our cordial conversation, I made the simple and very obvious statement (for those who know the Scriptures) that “God wanted his Son to die for us.” To my surprise, one of them responded, “You have a very cruel concept of God!”
Some, like these “Witnesses,” affirm that Jesus came to the world to establish an earthly kingdom (plan A). Since he was not successful, he left the church in its place as a temporary substitute (plan B). Apparently, they think that Jesus couldn’t accomplish this mission because the Jews were rebellious and they crucified him. Even one of the women who knocked on my door thought that the Father actually didn’t want his Son to die for sinful man (?).
There are several problems with this thinking. In the first place, God did want Jesus to give his life for us even before he came to earth. The inspired writer Luke tells us that the death of Jesus occurred according to the “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:22-23; 4:26-28).
Second, Jesus did not come to earth to establish an earthly but spiritual kingdom (John 18:36). As proof of this, we see in the Gospel of John how some Jews wanted to “take him by force to make him king”; nevertheless, the Lord “withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:14-15). This is not the kind of behavior that we would expect from someone who wanted to be an earthly king.
Upon dying for sinful man, Jesus entered the true Most Holy Place (that is, heaven, Hebrews 4:14; 9:12), having shed not the blood of an animal but his own blood, and sat down at the right hand of God in fulfillment of the promise made to King David that the Messiah would sit on his throne (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Acts 2:29-30).
Jesus is reigning now and those who belong to his church (Matthew 16:18) are the subjects of the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). The apostle Peter refers to what the people on the day of Pentecost could see (“divided tongues as of fire,” Acts 2:3) and hear (they spoke in “other tongues,” Acts 2:4) as evidence that Jesus had received the promise made to David that someone would sit on his throne and that he would establish it forever (Acts 2:33).
The church is not, as some claim, a temporary substitute for a so-called earthly kingdom. The manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church “according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11). The church, as well as the death of Jesus, has always been a part of the scheme of redemption. Glory to God for having carried out his plan just as he desired!
The mission of Jesus was not a failure. It was a total success. Furthermore, the idea that God wanted his Son to die for us is a demonstration not of his cruelty but of his love (Romans 5:8; John 3:16).