God’s Plan for Man—Part 2

The Savior and Salvation

WHEN Jesus was born, an angel announced that he was to be the Savior. (Luke 2:11) God’s plan of salvation for the dying race called for the sacrifice of a perfect human life as a substitute for the forfeited life of the perfect man, Adam. But every member of the Adamic race was fallen and imperfect so that none could be a redeemer and savior.—Rom. 3:10; Ps. 49:7

God’s abounding love for the fallen human race prompted him to send his own beloved Son into the world that he might be the Savior. (John 3:16; I John 4:14) In order to provide salvation from death, it was necessary for Jesus to become a man, which was accomplished by his being born of a human mother. (Heb. 2:9,14; Gal. 4:4,5) Jesus willingly laid down his life to provide salvation for the condemned and dying race.—John 6:51

Jesus loved the world of mankind and not only gave his life that the people might live but also endured much suffering and affliction. (Isa. 53:3-7) To realize what Jesus suffered for us should bring forth our love and devotion to him and to his Heavenly Father, who gave him to be our Redeemer and Savior.

The Bible uses the word ransom to describe what was accomplished for us by the death of Jesus. (I Tim. 2:5,6; Mark 10:45) The word ransom, as used in the Bible with respect to the divine plan of redemption, means ‘a corresponding price’. The perfect man, Jesus, became a substitute in death for the perfect man, Adam, who forfeited his life through disobedience to divine law.

The Bible declares that the penalty for sin is death, but that God has made provision for eternal life through the gift of his beloved Son to be the Redeemer and Savior. (Rom. 6:23) This means that in God’s due time every member of the Adamic race will have an opportunity to accept the provision of God’s love and thereby be rescued from death.—I Cor. 15:22

God’s gift of life through Christ is available only through belief and obedience. However, one must be made acquainted with this provision of life in order to believe. (Rom. 10:14,15) The vast majority of mankind have died without having received the true knowledge of Christ; but this does not mean that they will not yet have an opportunity to believe on him and obtain salvation, for they are to be saved, or awakened from death, for this purpose.—I Tim. 2:3-6

The Bible tells us concerning that future time of blessing for the people that then the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth, and that all will know the Lord and unitedly serve him.—Isa. 11:9; Zeph. 3:9

Those who now believe on Christ and devote themselves to the doing of God’s will are reckoned justified upon the basis of faith. (Rom. 4:24) These are no longer alienated from God because of Adamic condemnation, but, through faith, are at one with him. (Rom. 5:1; 8:1) If these consecrated footstep followers of Jesus during this Gospel Age continue faithful unto death, they will be rewarded with the wonderful prize of immortality.—II Pet. 1:4; Rom. 2:7; I Cor. 15:53,54

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Many know that the Bible speaks of salvation and of Jesus as being the Savior, but what do these expressions mean? How many of the following questions can you answer?

How only could salvation for the dying race be accomplished?

Why was it necessary for Jesus to be born into the world as a human in order to be the Savior?

How do we know that Jesus, as well as his Heavenly Father, loved the fallen and dying race?

What is the meaning of the word ransom as used in the Bible?

How widespread will be the result of the ransom provided by the death of Jesus?

What provision has been made by God for all of Adam’s race to have an opportunity to benefit from the ransom? Do believers now receive life through Christ?

Reference Material:

“The Atonement between God and Man” (Volume V), page 417, 2 to page 420

Summary of Important Thoughts

Jesus became the Savior of the world by giving his life as a ransom for the forfeited life of father Adam.

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Following the Master

Jesus invited those who believed on him to become his followers. He made it plain, however, that the only ones who could be his true followers were those willing to deny themselves and bear the cross. (Matt. 16:24) Jesus explained that those who did not love him even more than they loved the members of their own families were not worthy of him. (Matt. 10:37,38) These terms of discipleship laid down by the Master are very exacting. They are not the terms upon which mankind in general will eventually receive life through Christ, but are the conditions upon which, at the present time, one can be a true follower of Jesus.

Self-denial as taught by Jesus is not merely the giving up of certain good things to eat or the forgoing of other pleasures of life. Rather, it is the denial of self, a dedication to the Lord that is so complete and wholehearted that self is denied all rights to govern one’s life; it is the giving up completely of one’s own will and ways, and accepting the will of the Lord as the rule of life. It means a complete change of outlook in life, a transforming of the mind to conform to the will of God.—Rom. 12:2

Cross-bearing signifies more than enduring unpleasant experiences. For one to take up his cross and follow Jesus signifies his willingness to suffer and to die with the Master. Those condemned to death under the Roman law carried their own cross to the place of crucifixion. For one to carry a cross, therefore, meant that he was on his way to death, and this is the symbolic meaning of Christian cross-bearing. As Jesus’ disciples, we suffer and die with him.—Rom. 6:3-6; II Tim. 2:11,12

Being a disciple of Christ, therefore, implies much more than living a moral and upright life. It means the consecration of one’s life to the cause of God as it is being carried out through Christ. It means a dedication to this cause that leads to the sacrifice of self and of all self-interest. This is the Christian life.

But the life of sacrifice in the Christian cause has its compensations of peace and joy in the Lord, which result from the assurance of having divine approval. This is a peace and joy which is based upon the knowledge that our loving Heavenly Father knows what is best for us and causes all things to work together for our good.—Rom. 8:28

There are also future compensations for those who faithfully lay down their lives walking in the footsteps of Jesus. The promise to these is that if they faithfully suffer and die with Jesus they will live and reign with him.—Rom. 8:17,18; Rev. 3:21

The purpose of living and reigning with Christ is to share with him in extending blessings of health and life to the remainder of the world of mankind, the blessings which he provided by his own death as the Redeemer and Savior of the world. The privilege of sharing in Jesus’ exaltation is described by Paul as “the prize of the high calling.”—Phil. 3:14

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There is no more important vocation than to be a dedicated follower of the Master, as the answers to these questions will show:

What are the terms of Christian discipleship as laid down by Jesus?

Will the world of mankind in general be expected to meet these terms in order to enjoy everlasting life on earth? What did Jesus mean by denying self?

What is meant by bearing one’s cross?

What are some of the present compensations enjoyed by those who are laying down their lives in the divine cause?

What are the future rewards for those who suffer and die with Jesus?

What is the purpose of living and reigning with Christ?

Reference Material:

“The New Creation” Volume VI, page 443, 2, and page 444

Summary of Important Thoughts

To be a true Christian means much more than living an upright and moral life. It means sacrifice even unto death.

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The Glory of the Terrestrial

One of the marvels of the creative works of God is their almost endless variety. Evolutionists believe that this variety simply indicates development and progression, which fluctuates as one species evolves into another. This continues, they say, haphazardly and endlessly. The Bible disagrees. The Bible teaches that the great variety in creation is by the Creator’s design and that species are fixed.—I Cor. 15:39; Gen. 1:24,24

The highest order, or species, In God’s earthly creation is the human. This is referred to by the Apostle Paul as the “terrestrial,” which simply means earthly. (I Cor. 15:40) Man was created in the image of God, and in his perfection he reflected the glory of the Creator’s character.—Gen. 1:26,27; Ps. 8:4,5; Heb. 2:6,7

Man was not a blending of earthly and spiritual natures. In all the myriad creations of God there are no hybrids, except as man has produced them. While, as we shall see in a later lesson, a very limited number of God’s creatures, upon conditions of faithfulness in following in the footsteps of Jesus, will be exalted to a higher nature in the resurrection, this does not mean that humans are, by nature, partly spiritual.—I Cor. 15:47-49

The perfect man was given dominion over all the lower forms of the earthly creations. In this respect he was endowed with the official glory of the Creator, who exercises dominion over the entire universe.—Gen. 1:28; Ps. 8:4-8

Because of disobedience to divine law, man not only lost life, but he also lost his dominion over the earth. Because of this we do not see the glory of God reflected in the human race as it was possessed by the first man, Adam. We see man today fallen, imperfect, and dying, and unable to extricate himself from the thralldom of sickness and death into which he was plunged because of his sin.—Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3; 49:7; Rom. 3:10,12,23

But God has continued to love his human creatures; he has made provision to deliver them from sin and death. (Ps. 102:19,20; John 3:16,17; 5:28,29, RSV) God’s provision for the sin-cursed and dying world of mankind, his terrestrial human creatures, is redemption through Jesus. So, while today we see man dying and without his dominion, by faith we see that Jesus has already given his life that man’s life and terrestrial glory may, during the thousand years of the messianic kingdom, be restored to him.—Heb. 2:6-9

It is not the divine purpose to exalt the people of earth to a higher plane of life but, through a resurrection from death, to restore them to life on the earth. This is described by the Apostle Peter by the word “restitution,” which means, not exaltation, but restoration.—Acts 3:21

What a glorious provision this is for a sin-cursed and dying race! Today the world is filled with misery and woe, degradation and sorrow, all of which will pass away during the thousand-year reign of Christ. Eventually not a stain of sin will mar the peace and harmony of humanity. There will not be an ache nor a pain, nor any evidence of the former reign of sin and death. No longer will there be need for doctors and undertakers. Hospitals will be emptied of patients. Instead of dying and going into the tomb, the people will be returning from death, the power of God being utilized to restore them to life. This is God’s loving provision for man. This is the destiny for humanity which has been made possible through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. This will be the restored glory of the terrestrial.

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Explain the difference between the evolutionist’s view of creation and the truth set forth in the Bible.

What is the highest order of earthly creation, and what is one of the Bible’s words pertaining thereto?

Is man a blending of earthly and spiritual natures?

What was one aspect of the glory with which Adam was endowed by his Creator?

Is man able to extricate himself from the result of his sin? Explain God’s provision for the restoration of man to life and to his lost dominion.

What word does the Apostle Peter use to describe man’s restoration?

Reference Material:

“The Divine Plan of the Ages” Volume I, pages 173-177

Summary of Important Thoughts

Man was created an earthly being and is not a blending of earthly and spiritual. Through the ransom and resurrection, he will be restored to life on the earth as a human.

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The Glory of the Celestial

The word celestial appears only twice in the Bible. (I Cor. 15:40) It is a translation of the Greek word epouranios. The literal meaning of this word is ‘above the sky’. (See Strong’s Concordance.)

This same Greek word is also translated ‘heaven’ by the Apostle Paul in a statement in which he contrasts things in heaven with things on earth. (Phil. 2:10) This indicates that there are intelligent creations of God in the realms of the universe above or beyond the sky, or more scientifically speaking, beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

Epouranios is also translated ‘heavenly’ in various Bible texts. It is this word that is associated with Father in the name, Heavenly Father.—Matt. 18:35

The Apostle Paul was assured that the Lord would deliver him from evil so that he might participate with Jesus in the heavenly kingdom. (II Tim. 4:18) Here also the Greek word epouranios is used.

It is also this word that is used by the Apostle Paul when, in presenting the hope set before the dedicated followers of Jesus, he uses the expression, “heavenly calling.”—Heb. 3:1

When Nicodemus, a ruler in Israel, expressed surprise to Jesus over the idea of being born again, Jesus referred to it as among the “heavenly things” which the human mind could not appreciate. (John 3:12) Here again it is the Greek word epouranios that is used.

Paul uses this word in another context in which he emphasizes that celestial, or heavenly beings are separate and distinct from earthly or human beings. (I Cor. 15:48) Paul does explain, however, that some members of the human race will be exalted to a heavenly or celestial state in the resurrection.—I Cor. 15:49

It is important to keep the meaning of these various texts of Scripture in mind, for they emphasize that there is a great distinction between the heavenly nature and the earthly nature, that the two are in no way blended into one, as erroneously supposed by so many. Man was in no sense whatever a heavenly or spiritual being when created, nor will the nature of man ever change.

The Scriptures do teach that those who sacrifice their earthly lives following in the footsteps of Jesus, will be exalted to the heavenly nature in the resurrection. Indeed, in a future article we shall see that there are different planes of life or natures in the heavens, and the followers of Jesus will be exalted to the very highest of these, even to the divine nature.—II Pet. 1:4

It is this glorious hope that the promises of the Bible hold out to the faithful followers of the Master, and is worth far more than giving up all that we have and are in order to attain that glorious prize of the divine nature.

The glory of the celestial is indeed a wonderful prize. The Apostle Paul describes it as “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) Jesus explained that this treasure in heaven was attainable only by giving up all earthly treasures and becoming his followers into sacrificial death, which he illustrated by the idea of taking up our cross as his disciples. (Matt. 16:24) May all who have thus set their affections on things above be diligent as they press on in the narrow way which leads to glory, honor, and immortality.

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How many times does the word celestial appear in the Bible, and what is the Greek word and its meaning from which it is translated?

What other words are used In the New Testament to translate the Greek word epouranlos?

What is implied by Paul’s contrast between the things in heaven and the things in earth?

What did the Apostle Paul mean by a heavenly kingdom and a heavenly calling?

What did Jesus say to Nicodemus about heavenly things?

Are the heavenly and earthly natures ever blended in one being? If not, why do followers of Jesus hope to be heavenly beings in the resurrection?

Are there different planes of beings in the heavens?

Reference Material:

“The Divine Plan of the Ages” Volume I, pages 181-184

Summary of Important Thoughts

The Bible teaches that God has created beings on higher planes of life than the human and that the faithful followers of Jesus are promised exaltation to the highest of these, which is the divine.

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The Hope of Immortality

Those who possess immortality live everlastingly, but everlasting life is not necessarily immortality. Had our first parents remained obedient to their Creator and been permitted to continue partaking of the life-giving trees of Eden, they would have lived forever, but they would not have been immortal.—Gen. 3:22-24

Immortality is indestructibility. It is a quality of the divine nature which was possessed originally only by God and was conferred upon Jesus at the time of his resurrection.—John 5:26; Heb. 1:3; Matt. 28:18

The Apostle Paul informs us that Jesus brought both life and immortality to light through the Gospel. (II Tim. 1:10) The Gospel is the good tidings of salvation from death through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. During the Millennial Age eternal life will be offered to the whole world of mankind in fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth, but those who now accept Christ, upon the basis of faith, and dedicate their lives to the Lord are promised immortality.—Rom. 2:7

This means that these faithful followers of Jesus will be exalted to be like him in the resurrection. (I John 3:1-3) To be like the resurrected Jesus means to be a partaker of the divine nature. (II Pet. 1:4) To attain this exalted condition and position implies humility and faithfulness to the Lord in the present life, a faithfulness demonstrated by a willingness to sacrifice life itself in the service of the Lord. And it must be an abiding faithfulness which continues until death.—Rev. 2:10

Man was created mortal, which means that death was a possibility but not a necessity. Death for humans became a certainty because of sin. (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12) Being members of the human race, the followers of Jesus are by nature mortal. By faith, the condemnation of death is lifted from them, and they lay down their Justified humanity in sacrifice.—Rom. 5:18; 8:1

The Apostle Paul uses the contrasting words corruptible and incorruptible to describe the qualities of mortality and immortality. And he informs us it is in the resurrection that Christians, who are now mortal or corruptible, put on incorruption. For emphasis Paul repeats this thought, using the words mortal and immortality.—I Cor. 15:53,54

Paul refers to the time when death is swallowed up in victory, quoting from one of the Old Testament promises of God which applies to the Millennial Age when mankind is restored to perfect life on the earth. (I Cor. 15:54,55; Isa. 25:7,8) But these blessings of everlasting human life cannot flow out to the world of mankind until all the true followers of Jesus during the present age have proved worthy of exaltation to immortality. Then these will live and reign with Christ for the purpose of destroying the great enemy Death.—I Cor. 15:25,26; Rev. 20:6

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This lesson uses every text in the Bible in which the words immortal and immortality are used. Can you answer these questions pertaining to immortality?

Explain the difference between immortality and eternal life.

What is one of the qualities of immortality, and who first possessed it?

Explain the manner in which Jesus brought both life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

When are Jesus’ followers exalted to the divine nature? How does one qualify to receive immortality?

Do the followers of Jesus die as condemned humans? Explain.

How does the Apostle Paul explain the exaltation of Christians to immortality, and when does this take place? When will death be swallowed up in victory?

Reference Material:

“The Divine Plan of the Ages” Volume I, pages 207, 1, and page 208

Summary of Important Thoughts

Man was not created immortal, but immortality is promised to the faithful followers of Jesus and is conferred upon them in the resurrection.

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Christ’s Promised Return

The disciples of Jesus confidently believed that their Master was the promised Messiah and that he had come in fulfillment of the Old Testament promises relating to the establishment of a powerful government that would extend its sphere of influence throughout the whole earth. (Isa. 9:6,7; Ps. 72:8; John 1:41,42) For this reason they were greatly disappointed when Jesus was arrested and cruelly put to death. They did not then realize that Jesus was giving his flesh for the life of the world.—John 6:51

It was not until later, through the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit, that the apostles and other disciples in the Early Church learned that their kingdom hopes, which were centered in Jesus, would be realized only as a result of his return to earth in what has come to be referred to as his second advent. However, even before his death Jesus told his disciples that he was going away, that he would return, and that they would then be with him again.—John 14:3; Matt. 16:27

After Jesus’ resurrection, when he appeared to his disciples for the last time before returning to heaven, they were much concerned over their hope of the kingdom. However, Jesus then gave them a commission to be his witnesses; and when he left them, two angels appeared and gave them assurance that Jesus would return to them. (Acts 1:6-11) In a sermon Peter preached shortly after Pentecost, he spoke of Christ’s return and associated the event with what he described as “times of restitution of all things.” (Acts 3:20,21) The hope of the return of Christ to establish his kingdom and to reward his followers was very real to the members of the Early Church, and was a source of comfort and spiritual strength to them as they sought to bear witness concerning Jesus to a hostile world. (Titus 2:13; I Thess. 4:16-18) The brethren of the Early Church did not understand that the return of Christ was many centuries away and their general expectation then was that he would return very soon. Many of the promises led them to believe this concept, for they did not take into consideration that the promises were based upon the divine viewpoint of time.—Ps. 90:4; II Pet. 3:8,10; Rev. 3:11; 22:20

These brethren were in the difficult position of sponsoring the cause of a Messiah who had been put to death by his enemies. They understood why he had died, but the unbelieving world did not. True, they proclaimed the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead; but to this had to be added that he had returned to heaven, which would seem incredible to unbelievers.

It was difficult to obtain acceptance of a message like this, and the faith of the brethren was sorely tried. To them, therefore, the return of their Lord was the center of all their hopes, and they longed for the time when he would appear.—I Pet. 1:7,8

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Why was the death of Jesus such a great test to his disciples’ faith?

How and when did the apostles and other disciples in the Early Church learn that Christ would not establish his kingdom until his second advent?

What assurance was given to the disciples by two angels following Jesus’ ascension? Quote the promise.

With what great work did the Apostle Peter associate Jesus’ second coming?

Quote texts of Scripture to show the importance of our Lord’s return to the outlook of the Early Church.

Did the brethren at the beginning of the age realize that the return of Christ was so far in the future from their day?

Explain the situation that was such a severe test of faith to the brethren of the Early Church, and relate this to the hope of Christ’s appearance.

Reference Material:

“The Divine Plan of the Ages” Volume I, pages 93,94

Summary of Important Thoughts

An important object of Jesus’ first advent was to die as the Redeemer, to ransom the world from death. He comes the second time as the Deliverer, to restore mankind to life.

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