As I have studied the Bible for the past 42 years, I have received untold blessings from an increasing understanding of God and His Word. This growth has been a work in progress and I have also found that if a discovery proves to be a genuine discovery, I may have to rethink everything that I once thought about the topic. Because no human being has or knows absolute truth, what appears to be true today is subject to change tomorrow. This discovery process has occurred several times in my life and it has become necessary to publish corrections whenever a topic becomes clearer. Some people view any change in religious matters as a sign of inferiority, but who is more foolish: The person (or religious organization) who thinks he knows everything about God and His Word or the person who is willing to let go of a cherished idea because compelling evidence now requires it?
God’s ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:9) God’s Word is comprehensive and our understanding of God’s truth and His Word should be constantly advancing. Advancing truth and our progress in understanding it comes with a price and that price is change. With that said, I am announcing a change in my understanding and I think it deserves a published correction. This correction is not earthshaking, but I hope it brings you the blessing it has brought me. My thought process started when I began wondering why Jesus was beaten and scourged before His death on the cross. Remember, the penalty for sin is death, not torture, and I believe I have found the reason why Jesus was tortured in the extreme.
Jesus Makes the Restitution
In my book, Jesus: The Alpha and The Omega, on page 208 (First Ed., 2001) or Page 211 (Second Ed., 2014), I wrote, “Many sins go beyond the possibility of restitution. . . . If a person commits an evil deed and makes a gallant effort to restore whatever he or she can, truly repents of the sin, and is seeking God’s mercy, God will make Lucifer, the originator of sin, provide full restitution for the wrong that goes beyond what man can offer.” I now understand the last part of the quote should read, “God will transfer the debt to Jesus who made restitution for any wrongdoing by His extreme suffering.”
We need to consider some background information to understand the reasons for my correction. The doctrine of restitution is based on the second law of love which says: “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If a person (a predator) willfully causes harm or diminishes his neighbor, two sins are committed: First, the predator sinned against God (broke God’s law that requires he love his neighbor) and the predator also sinned against his neighbor (he willfully injured or violated his neighbor). God requires the predator to make amends with his victim before He will allow the sinner to be freed of his guilt. This is why Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23,24) So, if you want to be right with God, go first and make things right with your victim(s).
When Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, became a born again Christian, he made restitution with everyone that he had wronged. When Jesus passed by and saw Zacchaeus in the tree, Jesus commended Zacchaeus by declaring that even “a tax collector” had become a son of Abraham. (Luke 19:2-10) Justice in God’s sight can be quite different than what we might think. For example, immediately after the flood, God demanded justice when He said to Noah: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” (Genesis 9:6) About 1,000 years later, God again demanded justice when He told Moses, “Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put to death. . . . Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” (Numbers 35:31,33) It may seem harsh today, but God demanded a murderer’s life for a victim’s life because God requires restitution for every injustice. This is how justice is served.
God loves each person the same and if one person willfully harms another person, the predator must pay for the harm he has caused. God demands that every injustice be made right. Just as a loving parent cannot look at his injured child and tolerate injustice, neither can God ignore injustice. So, let us understand that the basis for restitution is love. People may scoff at the Old Testament, but remember that it is an omniscient God of love who declared the principles of restitution: “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Exodus 21:23-25) “If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.” (Exodus 22:1)
The doctrine of restitution is derived from the commandment, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18) It can be very difficult to forgive a predator because human nature prefers revenge and retaliation. Making restitution often is as difficult for the predator as forgiving the predator is for the victim. Nevertheless, God requires that we restore (make restitution to) our victims and forgive our predators. God has promised that He will repay those who refuse to make restitution: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. . . . Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands. But those who hate Him He will repay to their face by destruction; He will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate Him. . . .” (Deuteronomy 32:35; 7:9-11)
Did Jesus Cancel the Restitution Doctrine?
Some people believe that Jesus cancelled the doctrine of restitution when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41) Let us be clear, Jesus did not declare from Mt. Sinai an “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” and then 1,400 years later cancel His own words. The Sermon on the Mount does not advocate giving the world over to predators. Instead, it stresses that we should exercise love for our neighbors. For example, if a Roman soldier demanded that a Jew carry his weapons or backpack for a mile (which often happened because Roman soldiers were permitted to make this humiliating demand of non-Romans), Jesus said, “Take up his load and carry it two miles.” If someone sues you in civil claims court, “Give him more than he requires.” If someone is unkind and strikes you on the cheek, “Be patient and humble, keep your mouth shut, and be slow to anger.”
The commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is far more than a suggestion; it is a divine command that has divine consequences when it is not followed. The Golden Rule, in its totality, expresses the following idea: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you because if you willfully hurt your neighbor and do not restore him, God will do unto you as you have done unto others, plus tax, penalty, and interest. Remember the phrase, “Do not seek revenge . . . ,” in Leviticus 19:18? There is a reason for it. God says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. . . ” (Deuteronomy 32:35) If you think this is merely Old Testament theology, think again! Paul affirms the doctrine of restitution in Romans: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
Now, two more issues need explanation before my correction will make sense. First, the penalty for sin is death, not death plus torture. (Romans 6:23) This means that contrary to what many people believe, the Bible does not teach that the penalty for sin is writhing in Hell for eternity. If the penalty for sin was endless torture, Jesus did not pay the penalty for our sins. Consider this: If Adam and Eve’s sentence had not been stayed, they would have been put to death the very day they sinned. (Genesis 2:17) If God had put them to death that very day, would this God of love and justice have tortured Adam and Eve for eternity because they ate forbidden fruit?
This brings us to the second issue. The suffering which the wicked will suffer in the lake of fire at the end of the 1,000 years is the fulfillment of the promise, “I will repay.” The saints will sit with Jesus in judgment during the 1,000 years and together they will determine what each wicked person must suffer. (1 Corinthians 6:2,3) After this judgment is completed, God will then resurrect the wicked and repay them according to the suffering they have imposed on others. When each wicked person has suffered according to the demands of justice (require restitution), the sinner will then die – he will be reduced to ashes. (Malachi 4:1-3) Thus, the penalty for sin (death by execution) will be enforced, but only after God has repaid the predators for the harm and suffering they have caused.
When I wrote the book, Jesus: The Alpha and The Omega, I made the comment that there are instances where a sorrowful and repentant person cannot make restitution. Upon further study into the life, death, and ministry of Jesus, I now have a solution to the question: “Why was Jesus tortured in the extreme before going to the cross?” Jesus was beaten and scourged beyond the point of human endurance. I have concluded that the Father sustained Jesus to endure more suffering than any human being could possibly endure to ensure that there is no debt of suffering left unpaid by any sinner who will be saved. Jesus voluntarily did this for you and me. This is why Isaiah said, “. . . by His wounds we are healed [restored].”
Restitution is not always possible or available when a predator attempts to restore justice to a crime victim. However, if the predator repents of his evil, makes a gallant effort at restoration, and exercises faith and has a sorrowful heart, he can claim God’s mercy. Then, God will transfer the predator’s debt to Jesus who has absorbed every ounce of suffering that you and I cannot repay. Isaiah wrote, “But He was pierced for our transgressions [the penalty for sin], He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace [repaying the restitution we cannot pay] was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5, insertions mine)
Guilt and Restitution Are Transferred
Temple services in the Old Testament teach us three important things. First, if we put our faith in Jesus (the Lamb of God) and surrender our will and life to Him, our guilt is transferred via the blood of Jesus into Heaven’s temple. Second, if we should harm someone and make restitution, and God sees that our sorrow and repentance is genuine, He will allow our sin to be transferred into the temple. If we have caused suffering and confessed the guilt to the victim(s), but appropriate restitution cannot be made, God will transfer the suffering that we should endure to Jesus. Finally, at the close of salvation’s offer, all of the guilt collected in the temple will be transferred to the head of the scapegoat which represents Lucifer. Lucifer will receive the penalty of death that previously belonged to the saints.
If a predator has violated his victim so that restitution is not possible (like rape), God will work two miracles on behalf of the victim – if the victim is willing. The first miracle is that of bestowing the gift of forgiveness. God will take away any desire or thought of revenge and replace it with divine compassion and love for the predator. (We see this gift manifested in Jesus while hanging on the cross and in Stephen when he was stoned.) Second, God will give the victim a special package of grace to deal with and overcome whatever damage the predator may have caused. God is able to restore and/or recreate whatever was lost! “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20,21)